For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a fan of airplane movies. Whether it’s a comedy like “Airplane” or “Snake on a Plane” (it’s a comedy), or dramas like the “Airport” series, I’ve enjoyed both equally.
However, the one type of airplane movie you don’t see very often, is an action movie that takes place on a plane. But luckily, in 1992 Wesley Snipes stepped up to the plate with the action film “Passenger 57.” The film was directed by Kevin Hooks, and starred Wesley Snipes, Bruce Payne, Tom Sizemore, Alex Datcher, Bruce Greenwood, and a very young Elizabeth Hurley.
The movie is basically a cat-and-mouse game between a hijacker and an expert in anti-terrorist tactics. It begins as security expert John Cutter (Wesley Snipes), boards an L.A.-bound flight in Orlando. Cutter has just accepted a job with the airline as VP of security, but he has no idea that a crazed and desperate terrorist (Martin Payne) is among the passengers, and he’s ready to do whatever is necessary to escape.
I was 14 years old when “Passenger 57” was released in 1992. I tried seeing on the big screen, but because I was so young, wasn’t allowed in. So I didn’t get to see the movie until sometime the following year when I rented it one Saturday night from Video To Go. The guy at the counter said I’d like the movie, but I ended up loving this little action flick!
One of the things that I enjoy about “Passenger 57” is that it’s not your typical action movie. The film doesn’t have a massive action sequence or even and explosive finale like in a James Bond film. Of what action there is in the film, it is mostly hand to hand martial arts fights. More than likely this was done to showcase Wesley Snipes’ skills in martial arts, and it worked. Snipes looks good in the fight scenes which have more of a realistic look to them.
But that’s not to say “Passenger 57” is a straight martial arts movie. There’s a great sequence at a county fair that includes a chase on a ferris wheel. There’s also some great dialogue in the film, like “Christ, you think they’d put an airline bomber on a bus or a train.” Funny line, but it actually makes a lot of sense if you think about ir.
“Passenger 57” also has some nice humor throughout, usually courtesy of Tom Sizemore as Sly Delvecchio. Like the scene where he looks terrified to be on a helicopter, or when he says goodbye to Wesley Snipes at the airport. But one of my favorite scenes with Sizemore comes near the end of the movie when he tells the press that the airline’s security plan was a complete success.
I’m sure this scene was not intended to be funny, but it cracks me up whenever I watch the movie. How could anyone with the airline say the plan was an absolute success? during the movie we see at least two passengers get killed, plus the pilot. So claiming success might be a stretch. Regardless, Tom Sizemore was a talented guy, you can see it here. Tha makes it even sadder to see the many problems over the years.
Meanwhile, Bruce Payne plays the villain as a legitimately terrifying character. This is made clear right off the bat in the opening scene when Rane prepares to undergo facial reconstruction. As the without anesthesia, and then calmly kills the doctor. And later when he takes over the plane, he bursts open the cockpit door and asks “Who’s in charge?” The pilot answers “Me.” Bam! The pilot takes a headshot. Payne repeats the question to the rest of the crew, and the co-pilot answers “You are.”
One of the highlights of the cast is flight attendant Marti Slayton (Alex Datcher). Her first meeting with John Cutter doesn’t go well, but once the two find themselves on a hijacked aircraft, they team up to try to stop the terrorists. Her scenes with Payne are great, and sometimes terrifying, but Datcher does a good job standing up to him.
If I have one complaint about “Passenger 57” it would be the movie’s run time. CLocking in at 84 minutes, this movie moves fast. Too fast in fact. There aren’t a lot of subplots in the film, but I do wish some other characters had been developed more.
The only characters that get a back story are John Cutter and Rane. Other than that we don’t know anything about Sly, Marti, or anyone else. We don’t even learn how Sly and Cutter became friends, or how the FBI agent knew of Cutter in the first place.
Even with that complaint, I still love “Passenger 57.” It’s quirky, funny, and has solid martial arts fights, and some good performances from Wesley Snipes and others. You don’t see action movies like this anymore, which is probably why I enjoy watching “Passenger 57” so much. I you haven’t seen the movie you should check it out, and don’t forget: Whatever else you do, always bet on black.