Before there were snakes on a plane, there was a charming serial killer named Ryan Weaver (Ray Liotta). We meet Ryan as he’s about to go on a blind date with a cutie, and he seems like your average sweet guy. The scene plays out in romcom mode… until a SWAT team led by a veteran detective (Hector Elizondo) busts in and arrests Weaver, apparantly just minutes in time. We then learn that Weaver is an extremely dangerous Ted Bundy type of dude who suckers women in with his flashy grin and good looks, only to murder them soon after. With the big bad wolf now in chains, Elizondo can rest easy, as it becomes clear he has been hunting him for some years now. The last step: transporting him by plane to the state where he will be tried and senteanced. Naturally, every security protocol is rigidly in effect, right down to Elizondo stubbornly accompanying the flight. And, naturally, Weaver finds a harebrained way to break his shackles and terrorize the nearest thing to him, which in this case happens to be a gorgeous flight attendant (Lauren Holly). Now they’re 30,000 feet in the air with not a cop in sight but the aging Elizondo, and Weaver free to roam about as he pleases, teasing and taunting Holly with both mirth and menace. The film hinges on an actor’s ability to be convincing, and Liotta is downright perfect in the role. He’s played so many nut jobs and angry lunatics he could do it in his sleep by now, yet he still manages to give each baddie their own unique flavor and flourish. He is downright scary here, geniunly winning you over with his dapper gentleman act, then pouncing like a lion. He’s a one man Con Air, and means business, piloting the movie with a sure hand and leading man talents. I consider this one of the great overlooked thrillers of the 90’s, and certainly my favourite one set on a plane. Watch for appearances from Rachel Ticotin, Ben Cross, Jeffrey Demunn and Brendan Gleeson. Now there’s two sequels: one with Tom Berenger and Jennifer Beals, which I still have to see, and another called ‘Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal’, which is a demented little shit of a flick with Rutger Hauer and Gabrielle Anwar. Neither have Liotta on their side, but the third is worth a watch just for its unintentional hilarity. This first one is the real deal, though.
The Coen Brother’s Burn After Reading is the duo at their height of trolling the audience, a mood they seem to make some of the most devilishly funny films of their career. This one reminds me of long days full of running around, confusion and missed appointments, days where I get home and reach the end only to realize that for all the frenzy, nothing I did all day was really of any consequence. This film is sort of like that; a whole lot of clandestine nonsense and tomfoolery that adds up to.. well, not much of anything in the end. If that sounds like I’m being negative, I’m not. That’s part of the Coen’s charm and a core aspect of what makes this one so hilarious. It’s also full of complete dimwitted morons, which only adds to the chorus of lunacy. John Malkovich teeters on the borders of mania, scary and funny as ex CIA half wit Osborne Cox, in a performance so utterly Malkovich that he almost seems like some other actor parodying him. He’s got a cold hearted bitch of a wife (Tilda Swinton) who is fooling around with even bigger idiot Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney is a riot) who is also fooling around with anything that has a pulse, being the squirrelly sex addict that he is. Cox has started a memoir (or, ‘mem-wah’, as Malkovich ludicrously intones it), the contents of which are on a disc that end up in the hands of yet even bigger idiots. Linda Litzke (Frances Mcdormand) and Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt) run a gym called Hardbodies (only the Coens, folks) and see the disc as ‘secret spy shit’ they could use to make a buck. That’s where the plot hollers off the rails into pure madness, as each and every character makes the dumbest possible decision along the way. J.K. Simmons are gold as two CIA honchos who are more puzzled than the audience, Richard Jenkins trolls perhaps the subtlest of all, and the cast also includes Jeffrey Demunn, Olek Krupa and a meta cameo from Dermot Mulroney. Among the cloak and dagger chaos, the Coen take every chance they get to spoof and lovingly ridiculue society’s cringe inducing stereotypes, until you start to realize they’re levels of exaggeration aren’t all that over the top. Pitt is gold as the air headed gym rat, Clooney pure screwball, and Malkovich is a force of demented nature, his exentuated word pronunciations reaching a boiling point of absurdity here. This is up there with the Coen’s best, and certainly one of their funniest hours.