Saturday 19 February 2022

Movie Review: Passenger 57 (1992)

An action thriller, Passenger 57 adopts a B-movie ethos to deliver a familiar story of one good guy standing up to a band of terrorists.

Ruthless international terrorist and airline hijacking expert Charles Rane (Bruce Payne) is arrested by the FBI in Miami just as he was about to undergo face-changing plastic surgery.

Underemployed airline security expert John Cutter (Wesley Snipes) is still mourning his wife, who was killed by a violent robber. Cutter is now prodded back into active service by his friend Sly Delvecchio (Tom Sizemore), the head of security with Atlantic International Airlines. Cutter agrees to travel to Los Angeles to meet his new bosses, and coincidentally boards the commercial flight being used by FBI agents to escort Rane to trial.

Several of Rane's allies are on the flight, and they kill his FBI escorts and take control of the plane. Cutter is the only person standing between the terrorist and freedom, and gets help from feisty flight attendant Marti Slayton (Alex Datcher) as the plane heads towards a small Louisiana airport.

Borrowing ideas from Die Hard and its first sequel, Passenger 57 adds a positive Black power message and blows through in a grand total of 84 frenzied minutes. Director Kevin Hooks leverages Wesley Snipes' comfort with martial arts and his smooth - almost disinterested - charisma, and keeps the action moving with hectic urgency.

The breakneck pacing cannot disguise flat characterizations, cheap sets, logic gaps, and frequent physics law violations. The weirdly appropriate but still quite horrid Stanley Clarke soundtrack mushes the worst of the 70s with the worst of the 80s in a celebration of softcore porn thrillers. The attempted insertion of interesting secondary characters is summarily abandoned, as a mom and child on the flight just disappear, Tom Sizemore flaps, and Bruce Greenwood as an airline executive is unsure what his role is. In an early appearance, Elizabeth Hurley gets to wield a gun around, but her prominence fades.

The screenplay by David Loughery and Dan Gordon swings for memorable one-liners at every opportunity and mostly misses, but does land one beauty with Cutter's "always bet on Black" proclamation. And it is notable that every good character here is Black, and all the terrorists and dimwit small-town cops are white.

Bruce Payne has a ton of fun as psychotic and worthwhile adversary Charles Rane (known as the Rane of Terror), always on the prowl for his next cold-blooded kill as fuel for a smarmy self-congratulatory streak. Passenger 57 is joyfully cheesy, and knows it.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.


  1. Once upon a time, I podcasted on this film. It's mental candy--not much to think about but kind of stupid fun.

    1. And best of all for a derivative frolic, it comes and goes quickly.


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