Great Bad Movies: "Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal"
"Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal" (2001)
Directed by: Jorge Montessi
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Joe Mantegna, Gabrielle Anwar, Monika Schnarre
I have only vague memories of the original Turbulence, a tepid 1997 thriller with Ray Liotta as a serial killer loose on an airliner, terrorizing flight attendant Lauren Holly. To the best of my knowledge, the film was a box office bomb, so I wasn't even aware that there had been any Turbulence sequels made.
However, a few years ago I stumbled across Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal in the bargain-movie bin at my local supermarket. I'm a proud metal head so naturally, the "Heavy Metal" sub-title piqued my interest, especially after I read the plot synopsis on the back of the DVD. I laughed aloud, said, "I gotta see this!" and immediately plunked down my hard earned $3.99.
Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal was exactly what I expected to see: a routine, low budget disaster-in-the-air flick with a rock & roll twist that provided more laughs than suspense.
Massively popular shock rocker "Slade Craven" (John Mann) is preparing to perform his farewell concert aboard an airliner for a group of lucky contest winning fans, which will also be broadcast live over the Internet. The opening scenes of Slade's tattooed, face-pierced, leather and spike-clad fans setting off the airport metal detector one after another will cause a few chuckles. Eventually the crowd boards the plane, accompanied by an obnoxious (but hot) video jock from the web site sponsoring the broadcast. When Slade Craven arrives, he looks like he just fell out of a Marilyn Manson video. This guy is the so-called "King of Death Metal?" Obviously, this is where I started cackling into my beer.
Once the flight is in the air, Slade takes the stage to perform for his adoring audience. His music is totally NOT metal; but then, I guess "Turbulence 3: Cheesy Electro-Goth Rock Junk" wouldn't have been a suitable title for the movie. In the middle of his set, Slade leaves the stage, and comes back waving a gun. He shoots one of the pilots, takes everyone hostage and starts rambling about life, death, hypocrisy and the power he feels in his hands. Naturally, the Internet broadcasters freak out and call in the FBI, who assign agent Frank Garner to the case. Garner is played by the usually dependable character actor Joe Mantegna (of Criminal Minds fame), but he is clearly in this movie just to pick up a quick paycheck. Meanwhile, Garner's underling Agent Hayden (future Tudors and Burn Notice star Gabrielle Anwar) is at the apartment of a computer hacker she was supposed to place under arrest -- but he happened to be watching the Slade Craven webcast when the poop hit the fan, so he and Garner form a quick alliance to figure out how they can help the people in the plane via the Web.
Slade Craven, rockin' at ya!
Here There Be Spoilers!
But wait! The shocking twist is that the "Slade Craven" who's been waving a gun and terrorizing everyone is not the REAL Slade! He's tied up somewhere in the plane, replaced by a look-alike terrorist who's part of a Satanic cult. The cult feels that Slade has been a "False Prophet" and so they plan to crash the airliner into a church in Kansas, in the hopes that their sacrifice will bring about the return of their Dark Lord... or something like that. By now I have to admit, I was four or five beers in, and my eyes were getting glassy.
Sooooo....from that point we go from merely silly to flat out ridiculous. Hacker Guy and Agent Hayden figure out a way to contact the real Slade inside the plane, who frees himself, kicks ass on a few cultists and eventually takes the controls of the plane himself. So now the film suddenly turns into Passenger 57, with this Marilyn Manson wanna-be in the Wesley Snipes role. Fortunately Hacker Guy played a lot of flight simulator computer games as a kid, so he's able to help Slade land the plane via radio from the ground. Seriously folks, you haven't lived till you've seen a guy in face paint and full leather Hot Topic stage gear, struggling with the plane's control stick and screaming "I can't level it out!" into the radio. Craven even tosses away the upside down cross that's hanging around his neck and prays to God to help him save all these people. (That's not very metal of you, Slade!) Thus, the controversial death-rocker becomes an unlikely hero, everyone cheers, Anwar lets her hair down for her new hacker pal, the end. The film doesn't say what happened to Slade Craven after this flight, but I like to think that he washed off all the pancake makeup and black lipstick and started a Christian rock band.
Summing it up
Despite its "Heavy Metal" leanings, Turbulence 3 is most definitely not a "Movie That Rocks." I can only recommend this one to obsessed fans of Gabrielle Anwar, or metal heads who want to have a few ironic laughs.
© 2019 Keith Abt