'Altitude': Film Review

Courtesy of Lionsgate
Descends rapidly.

Denise Richards and Dolph Lundgren star in this B-movie actioner set on a plane.

Any B-movie in which Dolph Lundgren plays a bad guy piloting a hijacked plane while “Ride of the Valkyries” blares on the soundtrack should not be entirely discounted. Especially when the venerable action star is not the main attraction, but rather plays second fiddle to not one but two female performers. The first is Denise Richards as an FBI agent who encounters far more than she bargained for on what was supposed to be a routine flight, and the second is Greer Grammer (daughter of Kelsey), a former Miss Teen Malibu who surprisingly makes for an impressively badass villain.

Destined to be watched at home while gorging on pizza and beer, Altitude is no better or worse than the countless other genre offerings littering VOD listings and receiving the sort of token theatrical runs designed to make home consumers feel they're getting a bargain. As with similar efforts, this one features performers who've seen better box-office days, such as Richards, who hasn't been able to maintain her career momentum after such late-'90s successes as Starship Troopers and Wild Things, and Lundgren, enjoying renewed popularity thanks to his appearances in the Expendables movies.

The story begins with hostage negotiator Gretchen (Richards) ignoring a direct order during a tense situation and getting demoted to a desk assignment in D.C. On the plane ride, she gets bumped up to first class and winds up sitting next to the dapper, British-accented Terry (Kirk Barker), who strikes up a flirtatious conversation. But he becomes visibly unnerved by the arrival of several other passengers: Sharpe (Lundgren), Rawbones (Chuck Liddell), whose moniker perfectly suits his demeanor, and Sadie (Grammer), who happens to be Terry's ex. It turns out that Terry had betrayed all of them in a jewelry heist and has run off with the gems, and now they're seeking both the loot and revenge. And a lucrative heist it must have been, since Terry offers Gretchen no less than $50 million to help him get off the plane alive.

Although Gretchen doesn't believe him at first, she quite reasonably changes her mind after discovering a flight attendant's dead body in a storage unit. With the help of an air marshal (Jordi Vilasuso) who happens to be on board, she takes it upon herself to spoil the criminals' plans, with hell, not surprisingly, breaking loose. Since the action takes place entirely on the plane, it's mainly of the claustrophobic variety, with the shootouts and fistfights often rendered in near incomprehensible fashion.

Still, director Alex Merkin does reasonably well with an obviously low budget, and the screenplay by Jesse Mittelstadt thankfully doesn't take itself too seriously. That's not to say it's good, mind you, with the film's last line, delivered by Richards, definitely not destined to go down in screen history. Richards acquits herself well as an action star, demonstrating an impressive physicality that merits an onscreen credit for her Pilates instructor. Finally, there's the fun generated by the appearance of Jonathan Lipnicki, the tyke actor from Jerry Maguire, here amusingly camping it up as a maddeningly peppy flight attendant.

Production: Grindstone Entertainment Group, Taylor & Dodge, Hollywood Media Bridge, Switzer Entertainment, Safier Entertainment, Rough Cut Films, Boundless Pictures, Tilt/Shift Films,  Firebrand
Distributor: Lionsgate
Cast: Denise Richards, Dolph Lundgren, Greer Grammer, Kirk Barker, Jordi Vilasuso, Jonathan Lipnicki, Chelsea Edmundson, Chuck Liddell
Director: Alex Merkin
Screenwriter: Jesse Mittelstadt
Producers: Jonathan DelPonte, Phillip B. Goldfine, Tyler W. Konney, John Landolfi, Chad Law, Jared Safier, Richard Switzer
Executive producers: David Allen, Michael Bien, Rj Burne, Brandon Burrows, Jason Cherubini, Alexander Ferguson, Milan Friedrich, Mickey Gooch Jr., Hans Hernke, Joanna Koss, Alex Lebovici, Jordan Yale Levine, Jonathan Lipnicki, Michael Maccini, James Macmillan, Chad Oliver, Jason Owolabi, Courtney Lauren Penn, Steve Ponce, Nick Reed, Benjamin Sacks, Mike Santoro, John Sword, Randy Wayne
Director of photography: Dane Lawing
Production designers: Shannon Muldoon, Alex Napiwocki
Editor: Alex Merkin
Costume designers: Corey Czerwinski, Tomika Smalls, Elke Van der Steen
Composer: Bobby Tahouri
Rated R, 88 min.

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