It'll be lonely this Christmas for flight attendant Teri Halloran (Lauren Holly) because her boyfriend has broken up with her, and not even face to face. As she prepares to perform her duties on a Christmas Eve journey, across the city the police led by Lieutenant Aldo Hines (Hector Elizondo) have finally been able to capture the man they believe to be a notorious killer of women, one Ryan Weaver (Ray Liotta) who in spite of apparently being guilty as charged before they take him to court is still protesting his innocence. They just have to get him on the plane to Los Angeles, and then everyone can relax...
Oh no they can't! Because they're heading for... yeah, you guessed it, and if Ray Liotta was far from proud of this movie then its reputation as one of the biggest turkeys, Christmas or otherwise, of the nineties has been soothed somewhat by a small but hardy band of buffs who claim actually, far from being so idiotic it's worthless it was actually so idiotic it was truly entertaining. Obviously it wasn't the first woman in peril flick to have such boasts made about it, indeed it wasn't even the first stewardess in peril flick in that vein as you could go back to Karen Black emoting through the ludicrous Airport '75 or even further to Doris Day forced to land the plane in Julie during the fifties to see such efforts.
When it came to Turbulence, however, the key to enjoying it was the appreciation of a large serving of ham, to an extent from Lauren Holly who played up the panic of the situation in a frankly unprofessional for an attendant manner, but mostly from Ray Liotta who voraciously devoured the scenery as if a man possessed. It doesn't quite start out that way however, as we are intended to have a big question mark over whether Weaver is a baddie or not, except every item of publicity the movie had was wont to reveal all, leaving it no surprise at all to the viewers when he revealed his true colours, no matter if Brendan Gleeson was on the plane too, playing a violent bank robber.
This being a seasonal movie we're supposed to accept that there won't be very many passengers on this flight, because patently nobody travels anywhere at Christmas, do they? Anyway, maybe the producers wanted to keep the costs down on the extras bill because this 747 has a mere handful on board, almost outnumbered by the crew. When Weaver encourages Gleeson's crim to visit the bathroom, all hell breaks loose as the crim breaks loose, getting hold of a gun and shooting all the law enforcement officers he can, in a development which had become all too familiar in movies where lawbreakers were transported on commercial flights, of which there were brief rash in this decade or so.
Oddly, to make this more festive the cabin was festooned with fairy lights so when the contained rampage began and Weaver was chasing Teri around the aircraft, with the lightning flashing and dimly lit photography punctuated with bright colours director Robert Butler managed a mood, a look, that was weirdly hallucinatory. Assisting this was the way his stars would roll around inside the plane as it even turned upside down at one point, Weaver roaring with laughter as if he were in the funhouse at the fairground. Liotta was quite something to witness here, as once they were in the air and his psychopath was free he went way over the top and sailed 36,000 feet into the air with his yelling, giggling and face-pulling; Holly went through the "Can anybody fly a plane?!" histrionics with nervy abandon, but it was her co-star who picked up the movie and drop-kicked it over the goalposts of preposterousness. With that in mind, yes, it was possible to enjoy Turbulence, not because it was good, but the opposite of that. Music by Shirley Walker.