25 years ago, Brendan Gleeson kicked off one of Hollywood's most OTT plots
"There's a serial killer loose on a 747, which is heading directly into a huge storm..."
Hollywood loves a great one-liner description that will immediately get the audience's attention:
- There's a bomb a bus, which will detonate if it goes below 50 mph.
- Dinosaurs are brought back to life using science, but they get free and start hunting humans.
- A young boy tries to help an alien find a way to get back to his home planet.
In different ways, they grab your attention, immediately hook you in, leaving you wanting to know what happens next.
That rule very much applies to the one-line description of Turbulence, which feels like someone tried to do a mash-up of Se7en and Twister, but set it on the cheap-to-rent interior of a single airplane:
- There's a serial killer loose on a 747, which is heading directly into a huge storm.
Okay, great, a lot to process there, but what are you going to do now that you've got my attention, movie?
And how does it relate to Brendan Gleeson?
Clip via The Young Historian
Released in cinemas in January 1997, Turbulence tells the story of a bizarrely almost-empty 747 (there appears to be as many cabin crew as there are passengers), with Lauren Holly playing one of the stewards.
Being set on Christmas Eve, the plane is decked out in festive decorations (so releasing the movie in January was already a bit of a mistake), and the crew discover they've got a group of last-minute arrivals: two alleged serial killers (played by Ray Liotta and, yep, Brendan Gleeson), and their four accompanying FBI agents.
Midway through the flight, Gleeson attempts an escape, but the ensuing chaos results in his death, as well as the death of the four agents AND the pilot and co-pilot.
Holly discovers she's pretty much alone on the flight with Ray Liotta's serial killer, no-one to fly the plane, and she's informed the plane is heading directly into a Category Six hurricane (which, by the way, doesn't exist, as hurricanes are measured in categories one to five).
It kicks off one of cinema's most OTT plots, evidence of Hollywood at its most direct and succinct, a need to keep things as simple as possible: a killer, a plane, a storm, and just one woman who can save the day.
Almost as if someone heard Jean-Luc Godard's famous quote "All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl" and decided they could do better.
But, of course, they couldn't.
Budgeted at $55 million, the movie made just $11.5 million at the global box office, scored 17% on Rotten Tomatoes, and was nominated for two Razzies: Worst Actress (Holly lost to Demi Moore in G.I. Jane) and Worst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property (but lost to fellow airplane thriller Con Air).
In 1997, it was clear that the movie world still wasn't quite sure what to do with Brendan Gleeson, but he would quickly turn it around, being a part of I Went Down, The General and The Butcher Boy in the 12 months following the release of Turbulence.
Meanwhile, the Turbulence franchise itself seemed to persevere, resulting in two direct-to-video sequels: 1999's Turbulence 2: Fear of Flying and 2001's Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal.
And the original movie has become a solid member of the so-bad-its-good category, and should you want to, it is available to rent on Google Play and the Sky Store right now.