Rough Air: Danger On Flight 534 Movie Review

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There's a guilty pleasure in some of those dodgy made-for-video releases, which is not to say they're good or well crafted. We've come to expect the worst from once-great actor Eric Roberts, but I've generally found his thuggish eccentricity amusing. He was perfectly cast as a dumb convict opposite Jon Voight in Runaway Train, bemoaning their plight while Voight gleefully mocked away: "You don't know what you can do and what you can't! You're a coward!" Well, Roberts is still in the same boat: Uncertain of making acting choices anymore, stuck in the rut of movies like Rough Air: Danger on Flight 534.

As the tormented co-pilot forced to assume control of a damaged plane (Through a thunderstorm! With his ex-girlfriend on board as flight attendant! And the captain's been knocked out! And there's a murderer on the flight planning to take them hostage!), Roberts doesn't necessarily give a full performance. The material's not worth it. Not a problem. He certainly remains interesting to watch in his own way. I've claimed before that Moulin Rouge isn't a particularly fine film, but it's compulsively watchable in the same way the downfall of civilization would be. Eric Roberts is more like observing some poor guy who thinks he can't get his car started when it's really a flat tire. There's just something there.

Rough Air makes one long for the days of the drive-in, where the movie was unexceptional but somehow pleasing in its contrivances. There are corny, obviously fake shots of the plane in flight being hit by lightning and the like which deserve their own laugh track; but that's got nothing on the rudimentary character development of the in-flight passengers: the Asshole Rich Guy, the Detective, the Nice Young Chinaman and His Wife, the Frightened Stewardess, the Stoic Jock. I kept waiting for the Singing Nun, but that was too much to hope for.

What's surprising is how Rough Air couldn't be bothered to elaborate on the de-facto love story between Eric Roberts and former Baywatch lifeguard Alexandra Paul. Roberts occasionally seems to go for those raunchy Basic Instinct rip-offs, so it's odd to see that the producers don't force a Mile High Club sex scene as the plane coasts on autopilot through the storm. That's good, though. Running at a taut 90 minutes or so, Rough Air hasn't got a minute to lose.

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Rough Air: Danger On Flight 534 Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: NR, 2001


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