Airdate: 8-11 p.m. Saturday, May 24 (Hallmark Channel).
Anthony Michael Hall. A dirty bomb. A jetliner. It’s quite possible there never has been a more frightening thriller — and for all the wrong reasons — than “Final Approach,” which posits the scenario, “What would happen if four lily-white terrorists armed with shotguns, a cache of plastic explosives and a purported nuke were able to sneak past airport security?” Yep, somebody at Newark Airport could well find his Christmas bonus at risk.
This isn’t a movie so much as a would-be cinematic violation of the Geneva Convention. Quick, somebody ring up Errol Morris and ask him if this isn’t on par with waterboarding: a three-hour Hallmark Channel original film on Saturday night in which the only thing standing between the world and seeming Armageddon are Dean Cain, Lea Thompson, Ernie Hudson, Richard Roundtree and Tracey Gold. Talk about your Abu Ghraib nightmares. The flick piles on the genre cliches in torturous waves, clear down to the can-do flight attendant with a heart of gold and our favorite baddie brandishing a weapon in the face of an attractive young babe and leering, “Well ain’t you a pretty thang.” At least, I think that’s what he said. It could also have been, “What am I doing here? I was in ‘Sixteen Candles’! I was in ‘The Breakfast Club’! Who ARE you people?”
From the moment you start watching “Final Approach,” the overwhelming sense is one of purposeful parody accompanied by flashes of dread. We’ve got members of a white separatist movement (led by Hall’s character) hijacking a commercial jet whose carrier name might as well be Startling Coincidence Airlines, demanding that its loopy leader be released from prison. Here’s the best part: The flight just happens to have on it the ex-FBI agent (Cain) who busted said leader, a guy whose wife (Thompson) happens to be a mucky-muck with the FAA and who happens to be sitting beside a retired aerospace engineer. If the guy had two kids, they’d be named Nine and Eleven.
Things unfold in the painfully predictable fashion that’s mandated, fueled by an utterly stilted script (from co-scribes Adam Armus and Kay Foster) that plays as if it could have been someone’s master’s thesis at Stereotype Central University. A favorite line, from Cain’s heroic Jack Bender to a flight attendant wearing so much lip gloss that it actually proves blinding: “I’m an FBI agent. You can trust me.” Oh, but for a well-timed rimshot.
What’s a little bit curious about all of this is why Hallmark factory RHI Entertainment and its principal Robert Halmi Jr. would opt increasingly for fare that’s this transparently preposterous rather than, say, the warm fuzzies of the Hallmark Hall of Fame franchise. One guess: money (duh). Action is an international language, though in the case of “Final Approach,” something gets lost in the translation from English to, well, English.
Production: RHI Entertainment, Silverstar Limited Prods. and Larry Levinson Prods. Cast: Dean Cain, Anthony Michael Hall, William Forsythe, Lea Thompson, Sunny Mabrey, Ernie Hudson, Tracey Gold, Richard Roundtree. Executive producers: Robert Halmi Jr., Larry Levinson. Co-executive producers: Nick Lombardo, Michael Moran. Producers: Kyle Clark, James Wilberger. Director: Armand Mastroianni. Teleplay: Adam Armus, Kay Foster. Director of photography: Dane Peterson. Production designer: Jonathan Carlson. Editor: Craig Bassett. Casting: Penny Perry, Amy Reece.