Retro Film Review: Terminal Velocity (1994)


The outcome of the latest bloodbath in Balkans would probably look like the ultimate humiliation for many Russians. However, it is hard to avoid impression that the worst humilitation for that former superpower lies not in the field of international politics, but in the field of popular entertainment. Once mighty empire is reduced to the source of stereotyped villains and cheesy plotlines for uninspired and unoriginal Hollywood filmmakers. One of such examples is Terminal Velocity, 1994 action thriller by Deran Sarafian.

The movie protagonist is Ditch Brodie (played by Charlie Sheen), maverick skydiving instructor who takes a flight one day in order to give parachuting lessons to beautiful stranger named Chris Morrow (played by Nastassja Kinski). During the flight, he flirts with her, but simple glancing away is enough for her to disappear from plane. The body is found on the ground, but Ditch is convinced that he had put her safety on. Faced with the manslaughter charges, he begins investigation of his own that would lead him to Chris, who seems to be alive and well. But it doesn't seem that it would be for long, because both of them are involved in conspiracy involving smuggling gold and former KGB operatives who want to overthrow Russian government and restore Communism.

To be frank, I didn't expect much from this film yet I was disappointed. It wasn't the preposterous formulaic plot (certain mutant crossbreed between North by Northwest and Jan de Bont's SpeedSpeed), nor the cardboard characters the viewers don't care for. It wasn't even the not so original directing (one particular action scene is actually literally borrowed by Renny Harlin's Die Hard 2). It wasn't Charlie Sheen, whose charisma and couple of wisecracking lines actually saved this film, turning it into unintentional comedy. The biggest disappointment was Nastassja Kinski, who obviously chose wrong film for her great comeback into the movie industry. Although she looks charming, she is anything but believable as tough Russian intelligence operative. Villains are more convincing as usual, although the main ones - played by James Gandolfini and Christopher MacDonald - don't look like Russian at all. However, although definitely and justifiably forgettable, Terminal Velocity is a film that can provide some entertainment for not very demanding audience.

RATING: 4/10 (+)

(Note: The text in its original form was posted in Usenet newsgroup on June 5th 1999)


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