Air Marshal (2003) Movie Review

Die Hard In a … movies [with your elective mode of transportation, or location, in place of the ellipsis] are inherently problematic. For one, if you choose the wrong mode of transportation or location then your storyline is limited (see the South Korean actioner “Tube” for an example). “Speed” was able to transcend its problem by moving its story beyond the confines of a moving bus, and the same holds true for the innovator of the genre, “Die Hard”. Some choose an expansive location, like a countryside dam in “Whiteout”, or the complex innards of the President’s airplane in “Air Force One”. In the case of “Air Marshal”, the location/mode of transportation is a small passenger airplane (not even a jumbo jet, mind you, just a small passenger airplane). Forced to deal with this limited premise, the filmmakers get around it by sprinkling stupidity into their screenplay and having their characters do some of the moronic things known to modern man.

As is always the case with Die Hard In a … movies, terrorists are once again the culprits, having easily taken over the small passenger airplane in question (and I can’t stress enough how easily they accomplish this takeover). Some of our non-descriptive Middle Eastern terrorists want to fly the plane into something of the Great Satan’s ala 9/11, but another half just wants to make some quick cash. Unfortunately for the terrorists, air marshal Brett Prescott (Dean Cochran) is onboard. Or should I say — unfortunately for the passengers, since Prescott quickly gets a couple of passengers killed, and then tries to finish off the rest. In fact, our hero is such a brain dead idiot that one wonders how this moron ever learned to shoot a gun. You would think the workings of a gun trigger may be just a tad too complex for this mook.

In the world post-9/11, “Air Marshal” is the type of film that Hollywood would never make. Why? Simply put, the terrorists are not only Middle Eastern, but they are so obviously shady that it’s not even a question if they’re terrorists, but only a matter of when they’ll start shooting people and talking about how corrupted and greedy the “Great Satan” is. Luckily Tim Thomerson, a veteran of 90,000 or so B-movies that makes almost as much sense as “Air Marshal”, is present as a Senator/one of the hostages. Thomerson gets to engage terrorist Ammar Daraiseh in a 30-second “debate” about how evil America is and how fanatical and crazy the terrorists are. You get the idea. (In perhaps a stroke of genius casting, the filmmakers cast what appears to be a 30-year old woman to play Thomerson’s archetypical Politician’s Spoiled Teen Daughter. Egads.)

It should also be said that “Air Marshal” is completely shameless in its depiction of an airplane hostage situation in the post-9/11 world. Mention of the terrorists’ plans to crash the plane into a heavily populated era ala 9/11 is made. Thomerson’s character even gets to utter the immortal line, “Let’s roll”, when the passengers make a poor show of trying to resist the terrorists. Not content to just exploit America’s darkest tragedy, the movie tries to literally suck our brains out through our skulls with some of the most contrived situations ever put to celluloid. I often mention how nonsensical Dumb Action Movies are, but “Air Marshal” really, truly, takes the cake. This movie is Godawful stupid.

With a movie this encased in mindless idiocy, is it even worth it to talk about the acting? Or the directing? If you must know, the movie, like a lot of B-grade DAMs of late, makes use of CGI to show many of its exterior scenes. Almost every shot of the plane that doesn’t have the plane sitting on a tarmac is composed of poorly conceived CGI models. They even throw in a poorly conceived luxury liner for good measure. I guess it makes sense for B-movie producers to throw in a CGI model of a plane, or jets, or a cruise liner instead of using the real thing. One, they’re cheaper, and two — well, there’s just that one point that matters, right?

If nothing else, there’s one line in “Air Marshal”, which takes place about the 40-minute mark, that will have most people rolling in the aisles laughing. (That is, if you aren’t already laughing at all the contrived situations the movie’s managed to jam into its 85 minute running time.) In this particular scene, an aide to the President has just been informed by one of those non-descriptive high-ranking Generals about the hijacking, to which the aide replies: “I need more [before he goes to inform the President].” Then, answering the General’s questioning look, the aide adds, rather matter-of-factly, “Cause he’s gonna want to know who to bomb next.”

That one line is almost worth watching this Godawful movie for. In fact, I give the film an extra half-star just because of its audacity to exploit real events with a straight face. Sometimes you just have to appreciate a movie that is so devoid of good taste. Don’t you?

Alain Jakubowicz (director) / James Becket, Aaron Pope (screenplay)
CAST: Dean Cochran …. Brett Prescott
Ammar Daraiseh …. Jamal
Tim Thomerson …. Senator Chambers
Andy Hirsch …. Cline

Buy Air Marshal on DVD