Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal

Familiarity may breed contempt, but in the world of home video, it also generates sizable profits, which helps explain such comically unnecessary sequels as Poison Ivy: The New Seduction and Leprechaun In The Hood. Expectations are so low for direct-to-video movies, in fact, that even unpopular or badly received films get sequelized, as recently evidenced by Mimic 2 and Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal. Mimic 2 is the very definition of an arbitrary sequel: It essentially remakes its little-loved predecessor, which combined Cronenbergian weird science, Alien-style claustrophobia, and abundant gore to little discernible effect. Set in a dystopian New York City where steam rises malevolently out of every subway grate and the streets are perpetually rain-slicked and menacing, Mimic 2 stars Alix Koromzay as a lonely schoolteacher and entomologist who becomes the unwanted object of affection for a giant, chameleon-like killer bug. Initially viewed as a suspect in a string of murders committed by the bug, despite being roughly half the size of her supposed victims, Koromzay finally faces down her icky suitor in a sealed public school, a limp replacement for the empty subway in the original's climactic showdown. Like its predecessor, Mimic 2 looks great—director Jean De Segonzac has the Scott brothers' stylish-hellscape look down cold—and creates a vision of a New York so bleak and miserable that the evolution-crazed killer insects seem to have emanated instantaneously out of the city's bad karma. Also like its predecessor, Mimic 2 takes intriguing ideas about the dark possibilities of evolution and uses them solely as a springboard for yet another undistinguished, unimaginative science-fiction horror movie in which a multi-ethnic bunch runs around an enclosed space while being chased by an anonymous beastie. Mimic 2 ends on a predictably ambiguous note, but the idea-well for the series dried up halfway through the first film. Equally unnecessary, but far more entertaining, is Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal, the second sequel to the 1997 Ray Liotta flop. Just as Mimic shamelessly co-opted Alien's terror-in-an-enclosed-place formula, Turbulence lifted Die Hard's action-in-an-enclosed-place template, then threw in a crazed, charismatic serial killer. Rather than rehash Turbulence, however, director Jorge Montesi follows in the tradition of subversive sequels like Bride Of Chucky and Devil In The Flesh 2 by slyly sending up the first movie's silly template. Liotta is long gone, but in his place are four moderately priced semi-stars: Gabrielle Anwar as a driven FBI agent, a dry Joe Mantegna as a not-so-driven FBI agent, Rutger Hauer as a beatific pilot, and, most enjoyably, Craig Sheffer as a goatee-sporting, bandanna-loving super-hacker. But the real star is relative unknown John Mann, who plays both a foppish, Marilyn Manson-esque shock rocker and his exact lookalike, a Satanic terrorist who steals the musician's identity while aboard a 747 hosting a historic concert to be seen by 10 million people via the Internet. As Mann's evil doppelgänger and his Beelzebub-loving chums prepare to crash the plane over Eastern Kansas (one of the unholiest places on Earth, according to the film), Sheffer, Anwar, and Mantegna attempt to stop him. The premise is ridiculous, but Montesi and the cast treat it with a near-perfect aura of dry detachment. No matter how silly matters get—and Heavy Metal gets pretty silly, particularly after Mann's strawberries-and-champagne-loving Goth-rocker begins behaving like a standard-issue action hero—nobody ever seems especially concerned. Montesi achieves wry, understated humor by milking the contrast between the film's pulpy plot twists and the cast's superb imperturbability. He's assisted by some terrific underacting, particularly from Mantegna, whose deadpan reaction to the kidnapper's demands provides a comic highpoint. Alas, while this makes Turbulence 3 successful as a comedy, it also drains the film of suspense; why take villains seriously if the heroes don't? Still, what Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal lacks in thrills, it more than makes up for in subversion, sly humor, and sheer audacity.


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