Worth A Look: 15.38%
Pretty Bad: 34.62%
Total Crap: 11.54%
1 review, 20 user ratings
by Erik Childress
Original ideas are so scarce in Hollywood that once producers catch downwind of something catchy and successful, they milk it for all its worth. Die Hard was one of those and it’s an inspiration that continues to fly high and low today. Invigorating the high concept of “Die Hard on a (fill-in-the-blank)”, the sequel to the Bruce Willis masterpiece became “Die Hard on a plane.” What a great idea until it sunk in later that it was really “Die Hard in an airport…where there happened to be planes.” That’s when single-thought screenwriters worked overtime to make “Die Hard on a…” aficionados proud with the true “…on a plane” scenario of Passenger 57. Now, making a copy of a movie is one way to go, but its another to make a copy of a copy (where the Dubbers Union will tell you the quality decreases tenfold) where the side effect is creating an unbearable sub-genre that would plague moviegoers for years – the Wesley Snipes action movie.Blade and its sequel notwithstanding, Snipes all but buried the actor within just so he could show us how hard he could kick people. The man had some martial arts training and DAMMIT he was going to use it. In P-57 he plays the Syd Field checklist hero.
"Die Hard On A Roulette Wheel"
Rule #1 – Make sure the hero has a cool name, something to signify that he’s a bad-ass and one that reflects what he plans to do with the bad guys. (John Cutter – CHECK!)
Rule #2 – Give him a job, one where he’s labeled “the best” and make sure it ties into the main conflict of the plot. (Airline securities expert – CHECK!)
Rule #3 – Personal baggage. Something that haunts him and either takes him out of the game for awhile (so he can get back on the horse when required) or just so we can parallel a flashback with said horse when the need arises. (His wife was killed as a hostage during a convenience store robbery that he was unable to prevent – CHECK!)
Every hero needs a villain and in the wake of Hannibal Lecter a year earlier, we get Lecter the airline terrorist. He doesn’t chew faces, only scenery and with Bruce Payne behind the wheel of this one, his greatest strength is in his stony expression that may actually cause bullets to bounce off of it. And why shouldn’t they? In the opening moments of the film, as Charles Rain is set to undergo another in a series of plastic surgeries to hide from the authorities, he refuses anesthetic because “there will be no pain”. This is just one in a series of crazy tough-guy speak that Payne chews up and spits out like a baby sparrow’s mother trying to choke its youngling.
In this fabulous psychotic terrorist package we also get the hits “Never Mention My Childhood”, “(It Is) The Nature of Man To Confuse Genius With Insanity” and the Top Ten single, “Charles Rain Is Not Insane.” Take that for a spin, Eliza Dolittle, if you don’t mind the rain in Spain staying mainly in the plane that Charles Rain who feels no pain intends to annihilate.
So Rain is captured and ends up on the same plane with Cutter and the stewardess (Alex Datcher) he chastised for being a cowgirl during a hijack training exercise. The fact that she prefers to be called “flight attendant” rather than “stewardess” only lends credence to the fact that Datcher looks like a man. I’m sorry, but if her manly yes, but I like her too looks don’t have you looking for an Adam’s Apple, then apologize and order yourself a plate of ribs. And speaking of looking like a man, BABY, yes that’s Elizabeth Hurley as one the stewardi turned terrorists. It was from this one baby-fat full performance that you could tell she was destined for stardom, if you didn’t already sense that from her star-making role in Kill Cruise.
The first half hour of P-57 is harmless, brainless enough entertainment to pass the time. Considering it only runs 85 minutes, you’re already a third of the way there. Then IT happens. One of the most unbelievably blatant mistakes in the history of film flubs and one so laughable that you are now thrust into an instantaneous MST3K mode. After Rain is forced to land the plane in bumblefuckhead hick country, pay attention to the moment when he asks the local Sheriff to look out the control tower window. Yes, that is Rain rolling a passenger out the door of the plane and if you follow its body, YES, that is him reflected in the nose of the plane hitting the blue safety mat.
From here on out, the film takes a logical bungi jump off the cliché suspension bridge that make the leaps in logic in the first thirty minutes seem positively Spock-esque. Well, at least Dr. Spock-esque. It also antes up the race card to hopefully encourage them simple-thinking black folk to make Snipes the next Martin Luther King, right? How insulting. Naturally, Snipes is arrested and mistaken for a terrorist the minute he steps off the plane. I credit P-57 for bringing attention to the rampant stereotyping in this country with this last straw tactic and it may prove to be the last instance of profiling before it became politically incorrect.
He may be a black thang, but he’s also superhuman complete with kung-fu grip and the ability to see the future. How else can one describe why when Snipes escapes from police custody that he steals a motorcycle and heads IMMEDIATELY for the nearby carnival even though there’s no way he could have seen Rain and his cohorts head for a little Gravitron action. He also proves what a cunning master of disguise he can be when he walks through the festival crowd (as virtually the only black guy) and grabs a box of popcorn. Way to blend there, Wesley. Why don’t you just throw some mayonnaise on top? And, of course, everyone remembers the now infamous exchange between Cutter and Rain:
CUTTER: Do you ever play Roulette?
RAIN: On occasion.
CUTTER: Well let me give you a piece of advice. Always bet on BLACK!
OK, so let me get this straight. This is obviously some kind of racial poker chip meant to imply that since he’s the hero and he’s BLACK that he’s going to beat the white guy. But the only thing on the roulette table that’s white is the ball, which you can’t bet on. If you don’t choose a number, a row or a column, you’re betting on black or RED! So is Cutter implying that Rain is, in some off-handed way, an American Indian or maybe even worst, a communist? The movie could have very easily been called “Passenger 57 Who Walks With Popcorn While Kicking People In The Nuts If They Don’t Agree With The Classless System.” OK, I’m sorry, that’s a little ridiculous. Roulette also has the zero/double zero combo where you can bet on the color green. Does this make Rain a coward or just envious not to be a black man?
The action is pretty routine stuff, but is cut quick enough to a quick enough score that its easy to go along with without getting bored. There’s even a knife fight where Snipes simulates playing the bongos while the music accomodates the booga-booga Jungle Book rhythm. Outside of Rain, the terrorists aren’t very interesting. One looks like a cross between original MTV-J Marc Goodman and Buddy Repperton from John Carpenter’s Christine and another, a little wimpy white guy with glasses, literally shows up out of thin air just before the carnival sequence.
The screenplay by David (Star Trek V) Loughery and Dan (Tank) Gordon may as well have been written by Warren from There’s Something About Mary, the moron twins from Splash and Dean Devlin. Why does Rain ask the doctor what time is it just before surgery? Did he know that was the exact time that SWAT was going to burst into the building to snag him? If so, how did he know and if he did, why not schedule an earlier appointment? You would think they’d put an airline hijacker on a bus or a train, but that’s a point that Bruce Greenwood (Exotica) shows up for two minutes to exemplify the “duh” nature of the screenplay.Passenger 57 opened in 1992, just a few weeks after Seagal’s “Die Hard on a boat” flick, Under Siege, was an example of how to make a decent copy of an original. P-57 wasn’t responsible for all the other abstract “Die Hard on a…” spec treatments making writers a quick buck, but it DID turn Snipes into enough of an action star to punish us with future titles like Boiling Point, Drop Zone, Money Train, Murder at 1600 and The Art of War (which Snipes can be seen reading in P-57 as if he knew something we didn’t.) If only the Pre-Cogs from Minority Report were in place in 1992, this all could have been avoided. In the meantime we can all look forward to “Die Hard On Survivor Island”, “Die Hard On Road Rules”, “Die Hard On A Hot Tin Roof” and “Die Hard On a Spigget.”
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=2365&reviewer=198
originally posted: 06/25/02 13:20:40