PLANE Review: Mindless Old School Action Fun

January is usually associated with studios dumping their garbage in theaters. January and February are traditionally known as “dump months.” Movies that nobody in the studio is high about forcing them into theaters with little fanfare. That’s recently started to change somewhat, with genre films seeing success in January, like Liam Neeson’s Taken in 2009. The result is that January can be a wild card month for movies where studios release movies geared purely towards escapism. This year so far, we’ve had two films released that received good reviews, like the horror comedy M3gan and now Plane starring Gerard Butler. While Plane isn’t great entertainment and doesn’t reach the heights of movies like Top Gun Maverick or Avatar 2 for what it does, it’s good fun.

The plot centers around a commercial pilot Brodie Torrance (Butler), who is flying a skeleton flight of 14 passengers and a convict named Louis Gaspare (Mike Colton) being extradited on murder charges on New Year’s Eve from Singapore to Honolulu via Tokyo. He hopes to meet up with his daughter, where it’s established through phone calls and later exposition through dialogue that he loves his daughter and is helping her pay her way through college. Naturally, things do not go well with the flight, which is forced to land after getting hit by lightning in a terrible storm. The crew and passengers must find a way to survive and get rescued on an island controlled by “rebels” who control Jolo island in the Philippines. Back in New York City, the airline company whose plane Butler pilots is in crisis control, and they call in a crisis manager named Scarsdale (Tony Goldwyn). As it turns out, the prisoner Gaspare is not a threat to the group of passengers after all and becomes Torrance’s best ally in mowing down many bad guys. He’s also helped by the mercenaries hired by Scarsdale to help retrieve the passengers and plane.

Plane is a throwback of sorts to 90s action cinema. It was produced by Gerard Butler, who is known for starring in 90s-inspired action films like the Has Fallen series, Copshop, and Greenland. While Gerard Butler might not have the best range as an actor, he is good at home with material like this and gives a nice leading performance. An extended fight sequence is well shot, showing Butler physically up for the role. Mike Colter helps him along as the prisoner, who, as it turns out, is a decent guy just looking to survive. The other passengers have broadly sketched character types that serve their purpose in the story.

This film is the very definition of a meat-and-potatoes action movie. It’s not going to break any records. It has nothing to say about the politics of the situation or anything going on in the world right now. It exists merely to entertain and satisfy, which it does. It’s the kind of movie I enjoy every once in a while, a film with no pretensions that knows precisely what it is. Action fans should be satisfied with Plane, which offers R-rated violence and some creative killings of bad guys.

**1/2 out of ****

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