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Plane: Gerard Butler lifts b-movie actioner

  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Jan. 13, 2023 - 7:28 PM

Plane: Gerard Butler lifts b-movie actioner

The Newnan Times-Herald

Review By: Jonathan W. Hickman


Director: Jean-François Richet

Cast: Gerard Butler, Mike Colter, Daniella Pineda, Tony Goldwyn, Joey Slotnick, and Paul Ben-Victor.

Running Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

MPAA Rating: R

Available in wide theatrical release

Netflix doesn’t have enough Butler. At least, not yet. The Gerard Butler b-movie action formula gives the otherwise by-the-numbers non-streaming, non-Netflix theatrical release, “Plane,” a real lift. You can quote me on that one.

The streaming giant, who acquired the minor and little-seen Butler entry “Last Seen Alive” last year, would do well to bring Scotsman fully into their fold. “Plane” is the kind of dumb, obvious actioner that can be made cheaply (by Netflix standards) and keep subscribers happy.

The perfectly titled “Plane” also provides viewers with a heavy dose of French director Jean-François Richet’s brutal action styling. Richet’s best work is likely his two “Mesrine” movies starring fellow Frenchman and always charismatic actor Vincent Cassel. Those films followed the crime-filled life of gangster Jacques Mesrine, who could just about break out of any prison.

What’s common to Richet’s filmography is that his films often feature a macho central protagonist played by a talented actor. In “Plane,” he gets two gifted, engaging male leads in Butler and “Luke Cage” star Mike Colter. And in this lean action picture, Richet finds a sleek, take-no-prisoners narrative on which he stages rousing action sequences combined with a small amount of soapy melodrama. It works and should help the likable Colter find other vehicles, maybe ones securely grounded.

In “Plane,” a barely loaded flight from Singapore hits some bad weather bringing it down on a lawless island in the Philippines. The unfortunate crash landing occurs when the plane is struck by lightning. The pilot, Brodie Torrance (Butler), incredibly manages to land on an isolated mining road. But even though most of the passengers are safely on the ground, what awaits them there might be worse than ditching in the ocean.

Colter plays Louis Gaspare--a fugitive being extradited to the United States for a couple decades old homicide. Spoiler: he likely committed the murder, but, of course, time has changed him. And when Torrance needs someone as his wingman to deal with the unpleasant locals, having a real-life murderer at your back might not be such a bad thing.

Naturally, the two very different men join forces and take on an army of dim-witted terrorist types. Louis’ tactics are direct and brutal and will disturb some viewers. A sequence involving a death-dealing sledgehammer will be divisive.

But the script from Charles Cumming and actor turned writer J.P. Davis (who wrote the Chris Pine film “The Contractor” just last year) can’t be criticized for being soft and sensitive. Louis does what needs to be done and drags the otherwise meek and mild Torrance down to his homicidal level. It’s bloody fun, so long as you park your moral compass at the theater door.

Butler isn’t exactly playing a superman here. Refreshingly, he speaks in his native Scottish brogue, and even though his character was former military, he was a low-key cargo pilot. In one vicious fistfight, Torrance throws a few choice punches. But the hand-to-hand combat feels visceral enough, and Torrance manages to best his opponent without any false and balletic martial arts shenanigans.

Colter, on the other hand, is the action star on the ground. His character’s background gives Louis the necessary killing skills, which lets Colter look tough and intimidating. Although I can’t see a sequel here, if they get the green light, the writers would do well to focus on Louis and his path to redemption.

The supporting cast is used well. Tony Goldwyn plays a corporate security fixer named Scarsdale, who is brought in to take care of the threats on the ground. He operates exclusively from a well-appointed control room, managing the rescue attempt using his phone, computers, satellites, and video cameras. It’s cool how confident Scarsdale is when he calls in his crack team of armed mercenaries.

The airline president, Hampton, is played by prolific actor Paul Ben-Victor, whose filmography is so extensive that you will instantly recognize his face. It’s giddy fun to see Ben-Victor and Goldwyn bounce off one another. Goldwyn’s take-charge performance is a perfect foil to Ben-Victor’s corporate animal. Their chemistry contrasts nicely with the armed combat unfolding on the island.

The control room in which they operate is a fun little set-piece. In addition to banks of computer screens, a fully stocked bar can be seen in the background. It’s a little outlandish, but I could see Hampton and Scarsdale hitting the Scotch after the rescue concludes.

There’s nothing special about “Plane.” But the action set-pieces have weight and don’t feel too overcooked, even as a hail of bullets marks the whiz-bang conclusion. The dramatic flourishes don’t work, but who cares?

The Butler brand continues to shine, and “Plane” will keep audiences satisfied until the inevitable “Greenland” sequel has the action superstar battling the ultimate cinematic supervillain--Mother Nature.