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Plane Review: Gerald Butler’s Latest Action Film Fails to Distinguish Itself From All His Others

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The frustrating thing about a movie like New Gerald Butler Film is that it provides undeniable entertainment while laying to waste all fundamental rules of creative, interesting, and surprising filmmaking. The movie — actually called Plane and coming to theaters this Friday via Lionsgate — is Gerald Butler’s latest salvo in his (and Liam Neeson‘s) fusillade of action movies starring aging male superheroes that double as shots across the bow against Hollywood’s abundance of year-end films about feelings and kumbaya inclusivity. It is cliched, predictable, totally unoriginal… and highly amusing.

You will enjoy watching Plane. I sure did. That much, I can’t deny.

However, the film’s generic nature is right there in the title. This movie could also be called Island, Storm, or Guys With Guns, which is why New Gerald Butler Film may be more apt. Did you watch Olympus Has Fallen, London Has Fallen, or Angel Has Fallen? Then you’ve seen this movie. In fact, since we are renaming the movie, I’m not sure why they didn’t just call it Plane Has Fallen? After all, that is the first thing that happens when Butler’s character, commercial airline pilot Brodie Torrance, takes command of a flight from Singapore to Tokyo, as he’s instructed by a greedy, foolhardy airline exec to fly straight through a deadly storm over the South China Sea, all to save $200 on fuel.

Plane movie
Gerard Butler in Plane/Lionsgate

Once the rough-around-the-edges Torrance guides the mostly empty airliner through several lightning strikes and safely to the ground, we enter the Island Has Fallen portion of the film. We find ourselves in a fictional jungle in the Philippine archipelago, one that has been taken over by growling, anti-government militia men who sport machine guns, rocket launchers, and sinister bandanas. The separatists get a whiff of the stranded tourists, whom they promptly kidnap, planning to hold them for ransom. The twist is that the passenger manifesto included one Louis Gaspare (Mike Colter), a musclebound convict being extradited for a brutal homicide. Predictably, Torrance must decide whether to trust the prisoner in his courageous quest to rescue the airline’s passengers from the hands of the bad guys.

From there, New Gerald Butler Film offers more banality. There is an untrustworthy exec (Paul Ben-Victor) trying to triage the crisis by putting profit over people, though the former Special Forces officer he hires (Tony Goldwyn) to bail out the airline comes to admire Torrance’s no-nonsense, thumb-your-nose-at-the-system approach. In a flashback scene that is entirely irrelevant to the plot but that serves the purpose of signaling virtue to New Gerald Butler Film’s intended audience, we see that Torrance was demoted from flying highly desirable routes to the boondoggles after he used excessive physical force on an unruly passenger. To be sure, the man was being rude to the flight attendant, but in the moral code of New Gerald Butler Film, violence begets violence only when it is our violence. That the Filipino rebels live by the same, questionable, sadistic code as Torrance seems entirely lost on Charles Cumming‘s script and director Jean-François Richet (2005’s Assault on Precinct 13).

Movies routinely pay homage to the sociopolitical values that their creators divine are compatible with their intended audiences. There is nothing unusual, let alone wrong with that — though some of the best films typically exist for all audiences, regardless of philosophical persuasions. What is exasperating about New Gerald Butler Film is not that it preaches its values, but that it peddles the same exact message that all his other movies do — again, much like Neeson’s own filmography of late. The end result is that in this film, as in so many of Butler’s others, it is not exactly clear what work many pointless plots are doing.

Plane movie
Gerard Butler and Mike Colter in Plane/Lionsgate

Torrance has a daughter and he is trying to mend the relationship with her. He’s also oppressed by corporate apparatchiks, annoyed by unruly customers, and stalked by crazed gunmen. The man is forced to defend himself with violence (guns, grenades, knives, and snapped necks). He has to defend his territory, his family, his people, and his honor. However, none of it is necessary — one would expect any man or woman whose life was threatened by insurgents to take steps to defend themselves. The only conclusion is that these virtues are those that are meant to make him an appealing role model to the audience that will pay to see this movie on opening weekend. Move over Clint Eastwood, ya punk!

New Gerald Butler Film also offers little to speak of below the line. Clearly, the director and screenwriter were very into whatever effects house and makeup artists they hired to create one headshot after another because, in addition to an unoriginal story, even the kills here become repetitive and tedious. The credits allege that Marco Beltrami composed a score, but it is neither intelligible nor memorable above the deafening, constant rat-tat-tat of flying bullets and shattering skulls.

Does Plane‘s minimalist title signal something about the movie itself? Perhaps a lack of effort or fresh ideas? Or does it simply signal the low expectations of its audience? No matter, because the audience that shows up to this movie is going to love New Gerald Butler Film, regardless of what it’s called.

Grade: D+

Plane is now playing in theaters nationwide courtesy of Lionsgate.

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