Air Panic (2002)

Get Ready For a Ride That You’ll Most Likely Forget.

I took today as another opportunity to rid myself of another movie in my Netflix instant queue of questionable origin.  The only thing I could guess caused me to put this movie in my queue was Kristanna Loken being in it, but it’s not like her involvement hasn’t come back to bite me before.  As best I could tell by looking at it, it is just a dumb action/thriller that no one knows and no one cares about, but I’m going to review it anyway.  This movie is either called Air Panic or Panic depending on where you look, written by Jace Anderson, directed by Bob Misiorowski, and starring Rodney Rowland, Kristanna Loken, Alexander Enberg, Ted Shackelford, Barbara Carrera, Scott Michael Campbell, Tucker Smallwood, Billy Sly Williams, and David Bowe.

Commercial airlines have been falling out of the air for no known reason.  FAA system analyzer Neil McCabe (Rodney Rowland) believes he’s figured out that the problem is a computer hacker that reprogrammed the autopilot chips to allow him access, and he’s using that access to ventilate some buildings with the airliners.  But his bosses at the FAA have decided it’s a terrorist organization called Red Dawn … or the pilot flew the plane into a building because he was watching Red Dawn … I don’t really remember.  Either way, Neil figures out that a plane that’s about to leave will probably have this problem and is headed to Washington D.C.  He manages to get the plane stopped temporarily, but it starts to go on its own anyway.  He gets onto the plane with the help of the flight attendant Josie (Kristanna Loken) and succeeds in getting himself trapped on the plane with the rest of the people, and in the hands of the maniacal Cain (Alexander Enberg).

Am I the only person that has a Netflix instant queue full of movies I have no reason to watch?  This is not a good movie (as I’m sure we all expected) and a lot of things in the movie are to blame.  I feel compelled, though, to point out that this wasn’t a painfully bad movie, and I think movies like Thankskilling and Monsturd have ruined my ability to call laughably stupid movies bad.  This movie is earnest in its attempt, but it fails all over.  Let’s start with the poorly conceived story.  The story of this movie was so full of plot holes that I was actually having trouble taking notes because I couldn’t type fast enough to finish one thought before another would come up.  The first thing that occurred to me was when a character called the three planes that went down around the country “the worst disaster in aviation history” even though I had seen that this movie either came out in 2001 or 2002.  I have a vague recollection of a bigger one around that time.  I suppose it’s understandable that this movie got made anyway because it was probably already filmed by the time 9/11 happened and they’d have to put it out eventually to try to make any amount of money from the picture.  When the people are loading onto the plane, they do their best to try to shove backstory and emotional attachment down our throats as quickly as possible, showing the girl drop her pictures because she’s flying to go see her sick father, showing the Indian family with the father that’s a doctor that has a hard time spending time with his wife and son.  This is even supposed to be Josie’s last flight before retirement.  Movies like this are probably the reason I’m so afraid to quit a job.  Something horrible will happen every time.  Speaking of horrible, how bad was Neil’s idea to get onto the plane that he knew was going to crash?  I’m all for trying to save lives and everything, but I’ll do what I can from the ground.  It’ll hurt less if I fail that way.  I’ll be bummed out, but somewhat happy that I’m still able to be bummed out.  Early on in the movie, I got annoyed with how everyone on the plane needed the situation explained to them 3 or 4 times individually before they got their brains around what was going on.  I assume it was to fill some time or something.  One of the early ones was when the copilot was belittling Neil, saying that no one could possibly take control of the airplane with computers, even though the plane had just taken off on its own while the pilot and copilot tried to stop it.  Just after that, when the passengers started panicking, they would not stop asking what was going on over and over, even though it had been explained.

When they got tired of showing they were stupid by needing the situation explained to them over and over, they found other ways to prove their stupidity.  The pilots seemed completely useless in the movie.  They had apparently no ability to fly a plane without the autopilot, so they couldn’t live without the computer that was being controlled by a madman.  If pilots are actually that useless, why are they even there?  At one point, the bad guy says that this flight will be one they’ll never forget.  I beg to differ.  If it goes the way you plan, then they’ll be dead.  I’d argue that they don’t remember things so well when they’re dead.  When Neil was working on taking control of the autopilot, he took out his computer and used his cell phone to communicate with his buddies at the FAA.  The stupid thing about that is that one of the flight attendants told him he couldn’t use his cell phone, obviously just being used to telling people they can’t use electronics on the flight, but why don’t you shut your mouth?  I think the guy knows what he’s doing.  When he actually got in contact with his boss, Keller, the guy has the nerve to say, “I’m glad you’re up there.”  Fuck you, man!  I understand that you mean there’s a chance I’ll be able to save the day, but you just said you were glad that I could potentially die in the near future.  I’m glad you have cancer, asshole!  A lot of the graphics involved with the movie were expectedly poor.  It looked like they took most of the visuals out of Microsoft Flight Simulator.

The performances often brought their own stupidity to the movie.  Rodney Rowland and Kristanna Loken didn’t really do anything that bothered me, so I’ll let them off the hook.  Ted Shackelford as Captain O’Kelly did something nice and stupid when he was talking about the job Josie was supposed to be heading to after her last day.  To prove himself an old white guy, out of touch with the day’s youth, he said that she was off to sell “hippity hoppity” clothes that kids are wearing.  I don’t think anyone, no matter how out of touch, has ever said that accidentally.  If John Bishop was the guy with the fear of flying (I couldn’t figure out for sure) then he got on my nerves through the whole movie.  He was WAY overdoing it.  I’m sure there are lots of people that are afraid of flying, but I’ve never seen anyone freak out that much on a plane.  He freaks out so much that he makes a rush for the door to try to get off the plane when they’re still at cruising altitude.  Later, he succeeds.  Good work, buddy.  The only people that died on that flight were because of you.  Gulshan Grover did a fine enough job as the doctor, but it was a little convenient that there was a doctor on board in the first place.  It was like in Airplane!, but I would also recommend you not call him whatever the Indian version of Shirley is.  His kid was often irritating to me though.  He acted like he was autistic or something, but they never said he was supposed to be.  Billy Sly Williams got on my nerves often as Ray because he was just being an over the top douche for no reason through the entire movie.  It seemed like he was trying to start a riot on board or something by walking out of first class and saying everyone was gonna die, and then he spent the rest of the flight complaining that he paid for a first class ticket and shouldn’t have to sit in coach just because the injured pilot was being cared for in the first class area.  I’m sure, if you survive this flight, they’ll give everyone their money back, so why don’t you shut up before I tape you to the guy that’s so afraid of flying that he’ll inevitably jump out at 30,000 feet.  Alexander Enberg never really worked as far as I was concerned, which was unfortunate because he was the main antagonist of the movie.  His portrayal of Cain looked like Balki from Perfect Strangers if he was playing Two-Face from the Dark Knight.  He never managed to pull off intimidating in the movie, and sometimes just mustered goofiness.  I also thought his little chair was goofy because the one joystick on it was able to control the airplane, set off explosives, and even make Julienne fries.  On a side note, does anyone know what the hell Julienne fries are?  Anyway, I thought it was funny that Cain couldn’t leave well enough alone as most villains can’t.  After Neil safely landed the plane and got the slightly injured Josie in an Ambulance, he was in the driver’s seat (with his trusty joystick, I might add).  Then that shit turned into a temporary Road Panic!  And then he died and the movie was over.

There’s really no reason to watch Air Panic.  I didn’t even have a reason to watch it, but I did and now you don’t have to.  The story is full of plot holes and annoyances, the look leaves something to be desired, and the greater majority of the performances were lackluster.  I don’t know why I watched it, and I don’t know why you would watch it.  So don’t bother.  Air Panic gets “The second worst disaster in aviation history” out of “With Bronson Pinchot as Two-Face.”

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