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Paramount Studios presents

Air Rage (2000)

"You listen to me. If you can't remain calm, then at least shut up."- Gwen Richards (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn)

Stars: Cyril O'Reilly, Ice-T
Other Stars: Kimberly Oja, Alexandra Raines
Director: Fred Olen Ray

MPAA Rating: R for violence and some language
Run Time: 01h:39m:48s
Release Date: 2001-07-24
Genre: action

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
C C-B+B- C-


DVD Review

There's nothing better than the "crisis on a plane" genre of action films. From Passenger 57 to Air Force One, you'd be hard pressed to find a more fulfilling film experience. Even better, however, is the direct-to-video crisis on a plane film. Why, the classics abound, from Turbulence to the new landmark Air Rage, starring master thespian Ice-T, with direction from the great auteur Fred Olen Ray.

When embittered war criminal John Sykes (O'Reilly) escapes from prison, he hatches a master plan to extract revenge on the government officials he believes have wronged him. Targeting a high-profile passenger, Sykes, along with a team of elite commandos, overtakes the plane in one of the most thrilling action scenes ever committed to celluloid. It seems that Sykes intention is to steal a disc containing the details of every deep cover operation the government is working on. It's up to elite agent Matthew Marshall (Ice-T) and one determined flight attendant (Oja) to save the data and hundreds of innocent passengers, in a thrilling race against time, the outcome of which will decide the fate of the free world!

Yes, if you can't tell, you've just suffered through one of my trademarked bits of sarcasm. No, I didn't love Air Rage, and the action scenes certainly aren't thrilling, but this low-budget video feature does offer up some entertainment through its intensely overacted performances and its ultra-cheesy sets and special effects.

Director Ray (often credited as "Ed Raymond") has completed more than 60 of these direct-to-video features. Often, he'll also write and produce them as well. As a result, he has the craft down to a "T" (an Ice-T?). The formula is simple. Combine low-profile "star" (often a rapper, a minor TV actor, or, regularly, a former porn star) with a clichÈ, simplistic, and undemanding script. Add a low budget and a short shooting schedule, and you've got a feature that, with a little creative marketing and an attractive video box, can earn the studio a tidy profit. Ray does what he can with what he has, creating a film that is coherent, fast-paced, and suitably lightweight.

The entire production, from the sets, to the acting, to the script, is almost quaint in its ultra-cheapo feel. Cyril O'Reilly is delightfully over-the-top as the mugging villain, but Kimberly Oja is, funnily enough, even more satisfying in her performance as the heroic flight attendant, as she seems deadly serious throughout. An aged Ice-T, the real draw (if the box art is to be believed), manages to get all his lines out, anyway.

It's a critic's clichÈ to say, of a film, that "you've seen all this before." In terms of the special effects in Air Rage, however, such is literally true, considering that the plane scenes are all pieced together from old stock footage. Likewise the script is cobbled together from films like Die Hard and the aforementioned Air Force One. Still, it aspires to be nothing more than a simple action ride, designed merely to pass a couple of hours. It's not a good film. I probably wouldn't even call it a movie. But it is a solid, B-grade flick.

Rating for Style: C
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: I was quite surprised by the quality of the transfer on the disc, considering the last direct-to-DVD Paramount disc I reviewed was full of problems. The image here is free from edge-enhancement, artifacts, and aliasing. The colors look a bit muted, no doubt owing to the low budget, but at least there is no visible film grain except in one area. The stock airplane footage used for the "action" scenes is of considerably lower quality than the rest of the feature, and it shows a lot of grain and some visible lines and scratches.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: For an action film, the 5.1 mix presented here is a bit subdued, but things still don't sound too bad. Things are decidedly front-heavy and the more dynamic effects like gunshots and explosions tend to sound rather flat and dull. However, dialogue is well represented in the center channel, and the surrounds fill the score out somewhat. Directional effects are used once in a while, but I noticed no instances of split-surrounds or panning. Still, I didn't expect all that much, and the mix is certainly up to the challenge of supporting the film.

Audio Transfer Grade: B- 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
2 Other Trailer(s) featuring Deep Core, Submerged
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Fred Olen Ray and actor Cyril O'Reilly
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: You wouldn't expect much in the way of extras for a direct-to-video film, but Paramount has actually put some effort into this disc. Aside from a the trailer, a trailer gallery featuring other airplane thrillers, and some cast and crew bios, there is a quite amusing commentary track from the director, Fred Ray, and star Cyril O'Reilly. Frankly, I was dreading having to watch this, but it turned out to be a pleasure. The two know what kind of film they've made, and they have a grand time poking fun at the sets, the acting, the dialogue, and the low-budget shortcuts. Ray is especially amusing when he compliments the actors for "knowing all their lines," which apparently makes filming quite a bit easier (who knew?). Along the way, they manage to point out inaccuracies in the plot and relate some production anecdotes. If you only watch Air Rage once, watch it with the commentary on.

Extras Grade: C-

Final Comments

Air Rage is diverting, but it never really lives up to the promise of its absurdly campy title. B-movie fans certainly might enjoy it for the overdone performances and the ultra-low budget sets, but most would be better off skipping this one. On the other hand, I must commend Paramount on the DVD. They've put more effort into this direct-to-video feature than many studios do to their major catalogue titles.

Joel Cunningham 2001-07-23