Altitude (2017) – A Review
I haven’t had such a hazy movie watching experience in a long time. The last time might have been when I was drunk with friends having some movie on in the background. Or maybe it was when I was sick in bed, my body filled with cough medicine and I was too groggy to change the channel on the television while some insipid movie held my lazy attention before I passed out.
So, Altitude is Passenger 57 with Denise Richards stepping into the hero role. She’s a federal agent who’s been demoted to a desk job in D.C. On her way there her flight on Speed Bird Airlines (yes, that’s the name of the airline in this) gets hijacked by Dolph Lundgren, Greer Grammar and their baddie crew. It’s up to Richards, who is known not to be a rule follower, to kill all these bad guys and save the passengers.
That’s really all you need to know.
Sitting down to watch this I was expecting a cheesy, low-grade Saturday night action flick. Maybe it would have some humor, unintended or not, but my hopes weren’t pinned very high with this. With a movie of this type you can’t go in expecting any kind of greatness.
The only thing I hoped for was some kind of silly entertainment and Altitude didn’t deliver on that to make me feel watching it had any kind of value.
The story is uninspired and quite predictable. It goes through the motions of a Die Hard knockoff on a plane. There is nothing we haven’t seen done before. The bad guys take over the plane quite easily, the passengers scream, Richards gets into fistfights and shoots bad guys.
That all was expected. It’s how poorly put together it all is that made this stunning to me. I’ve never seen a movie where everyone acts so calm that a hijacking of a plane is taking place. I’m not sure if anyone on this plane understood what was going on. The passengers seemed somewhat very blasé about it. There’s not a lot of suspense taking place. I think some of the passengers just thought Lundgren and his pals were doing some kind of performance art to keep them entertained during this flight.
I was lured into this with the tantalizing promise of seeing Richards fight Lundgren, or at least the pair trade some schlocky threats between each other. Do not be fooled! Lundgren’s role consists of sitting in the cockpit alone for most of the movie. He never interacts with Richards, they never share a scene or speak to each other. She sees him once boarding the plane and that’s the extent of their scenes together.
The way it looked, Lundgren probably filmed his part in a day or two. The promise of a Richards/Lundgren battle royale is an unfair tease. It’s probably why most people would have any interest in this. Seeing them both on the dvd cover looks like it will be great trashy fun, but it’s a faked out ploy to get you to buy this. Richards sticks with fighting the nameless bad guys and Grammar.
The fight scenes are extremely choppy and I couldn’t tell what the heck was going on. I understand that this is meant to be close quartered combat, but come on! Even with UFC fighter Chuck Liddell as one of the bad guys there is nothing notable about any of the fights. They’re all basically shot like – ok have the two actors flail their arms at each other and we’ll put it together in the editing room. Most of the time I had no idea who had the upper hand in the fights at any given moment.
The whole movie consists of so much handheld bouncy camerawork it gets very exhausting really fast. At a certain point I just threw up my arms giving up to make sense of what was going on. I just accepted, “Ok Densie beat up that guy”.
There is zero geography within the plane and how Denise evades capture or where she goes to hide from the baddies. A plane is basically a big tube and she never appears to do anything clever to elude them. I know she goes into the cargo hold at one point, but that didn’t seem like a very original hiding spot. I guess it was surprising to the bad guys that it was an area someone might try to escape to. Or maybe they forgot about this troublesome woman after every encounter they had with her. Again, I just accepted that she magically disappears whenever she needs to run away from the bad guys.
You don’t get any witty or funny cheesy lines from anyone that will make you smile or even roll your eyes at! It’s like everything is on lazy autopilot – the story, the actors, the direction. The only one who seems to be relishing this and getting into the campy spirit of this movie is Grammar. She gets a few ‘bad girl’ showy moments, like killing a guy by kicking her high heel into his neck. She acts like one of those dangerous, no-nonsense henchwomen. She’s really the best part of this whole thing.
It’s too bad there wasn’t more of that heavy helping of cheese smeared onto this flick. It really would have helped with the entertainment value. They try to play this all pretty straight and rather than be thrilling it just ends up boring.
Of course there are times when they have to cut to the outside of the plane and the CGI of it is quite simply put – awful. At one point Lundgren lands the plane – somewhere. I have no idea where it’s supposed to be. At first I thought he was landing it in the ocean with a fire trail acting as landing lights, but it’s solid ground the wheels touch on. So maybe it was an island or somewhere in the mountains. Then bad guys just appear out of the shadowy surroundings. It was very dreamlike – and not in a good way. The whole sequence is so low-grade it made me wonder why they even bothered with it.
Yes, this is a low budget affair, but couldn’t they have worked out some way to sell it in some other fashion. It’s like no one considered how poor and unconvincing all these flying effects looked and just went ahead with including these shots in the movie rather than think up alternative solutions to sell it better. It really is quite startling.
Things do get a minor boost from – the supposed – thrilling climax. Oh, boy. It was so absurd that it almost saved the movie for me!
Let me explain. And yes, this is kind of spoiler-y, but really you shouldn’t waste your time with this anyway.
So, Lundgren is flooring the plane down the runway about to take off. Richards gathers all the passengers in a line, opens the back door, extends the inflatable slide and all the passengers jump out of the plane to safety!
I’m laughing as I write this! Cartoons wouldn’t even attempt this solution. I was so waiting for them to show the little old lady passenger hit the runway ground and see her walk off that fall. YAY she’s saved! Holy mackerel! Denise could have saved time by pushing all the passengers out the door while the plane was in mid-flight to save them!
If you watch this flick and are looking for any kind of any kind of rational resemblance to physics or aerodynamic reality your head is going to explode. All that appears to have been intentionally ignored. I say intentionally because I can’t believe anyone would be unaware of the impossibility of some of the antics in this. This certainly isn’t Sully!
There are moments it seems like the movie knows not to take itself seriously and purposely floors the pedal of outlandish ridiculousness for our enjoyment, such as blasting Ride of the Valkyries while Lundgren pilots this plane and Jonathan Lipnicki as a flight attendant welcoming the passengers onboard Speed Bird Airlines with a song and dance. And that passenger saving scene – I don’t think I’ll ever forget that one – is very funny! But those goofy moments are too few to save everything else.
The best I can say about this is for a B-grade, cheapie movie it’s certainly not the worst I’ve seen. There’s really not much to recommend in it. Grammar is fine as a villainous. Richards seems like she is trying to sell this. She’s not able to, but heck I’ll give her credit for trying. And this must of been an easy paycheck for Lundgren, so good for him.
Altitude is destined to sit in the bottom of the DVD bargain bin. For those that pick it up and are lured in hoping for some brainless Saturday night action entertainment I think they’ll be sorely disappointed. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to watch it a second time.
Skip this! If anything just watch the clip of how Denise saves the passengers. That’s the one standout – hysterical – moment from this dreck.