One of two action/adventure movies about sky-diving to make it to the screen within a period of a few weeks, TERMINAL VELOCITY beat the more expensive DROP ZONE to the punch and delivers a surprisingly effective package of spectacular stunts, smarty-pants quips, and breezy, low-budget
In a spectacularly creepy opening sequence, a pretty young woman drives along a deserted road at night, growing increasingly nervous in the darkness. Headlights appear behind her, advancing with unnatural speed and then swooping up and over the car. It's not another automobile behind her, it's a
cargo plane, landing in the middle of nowhere. The young woman returns home, makes a mysterious telephone call in Russian, and is brutally murdered in her shower.
We then meet rakish sky-diving instructor Ditch Brodie (Charlie Sheen), the sort of irresponsible daredevil who charms the panties off women while giving dangerous sports a bad name. But until lovely Chris Morrow (Nastassja Kinski) comes to him for a lesson, he's always managed to stay out of
real trouble. Her maiden jump, however, is an unmitigated disaster: her chute fails to open and she apparently falls to her death. The school is shuttered and Ditch threatened with legal action. But matters take a sinister turn when he's questioned by a mysterious investigator and gets the feeling
that there's more to the incident than meets the eye. The school's videotape of the jump reveals a provocative complication--the presence of a second plane in the area--and he begins to investigate Chris's background. His snooping leads to an apartment in which he finds a photo of Chris in a
diving jumpsuit, parachute coiled at her feet. He also barely escapes a gang of goons who seem more than willing to kill him.
Chris, Ditch learns, is a former KGB agent (snidely referred to as the KG-used-to-B), one of a passel of such former cold warriors adrift in the post-glasnost world. Her mission in the US is to recover an airplane filled with $600 million in gold bricks, stolen and destined to fall into the
hands of the vicious Russian Mafia instead of being used to rebuild the Motherland. Chris and her late partner--whose body was the one that actually went splat in the fatal parachute accident--made their way to Arizona in search of the plane, and now she needs Ditch to help her locate the gold and
fight off the bad guys. At first reluctant, Ditch is persuaded to help Chris, first because he wants to get laid, and later because he's persuaded by her passionate patriotism and warnings that if Russia is run by the Mafia, "it'll be the Cold War all over again." In the film's stunt-heavy climax,
Ditch rescues Chris from the trunk of a sports car after the car has been pushed out of a plane, and together they recover the gold. The film ends with Ditch and Chris in Russia, where he's commended for his aid.
Written by David Twohy (THE FUGITIVE) and directed by youthful exploitation director Deran Sarafian, whose credits include DEATH WARRANT (1990) and GUNMEN (1993), TERMINAL VELOCITY is a direct-to-video action movie blown up to $30 million feature-film proportions without losing the snappy,
careless attitude that distinguishes better examples of the form. It delivers a surprisingly polished blend of the over-the-top and the mingy, delivering diving stunts that are outrageous without being pretentiously ridiculous (as is much of the action in, say, James Cameron's TRUE LIES) while
offering up a hero of such surpassingly unmerited cockiness that audiences spend at least as much time wishing he'd get what he deserves as they do hoping that he and Chris get away from the wildly over-armed thugs.
Sheen and Kinski, who looks surprisingly drawn and tired, are a curious duo. While much of their dialogue is rife with profane sexual banter, they give off no romantic sparks, mostly because each seems too self-absorbed to be interested in the other. It's hard to tell whether or not this is
deliberate, because whenever the viewer pauses to think about it, something explodes. For all the action sequences, TERMINAL VELOCITY's principal appeal is the non-stop, smart-aleck dialogue, which is often surprisingly clever and never less than rude. It's an ideal movie for 12-year-olds of all
ages, and if its sights are set low, at least its aim is true. (Nudity, sexual situations, violence, profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: One of two action/adventure movies about sky-diving to make it to the screen within a period of a few weeks, TERMINAL VELOCITY beat the more expensive DROP ZONE to the punch and delivers a surprisingly effective package of spectacular stunts, smarty-pants… (more)