Warner Bros., already making a killing with “Under Siege,” takes another stab here at the “Die Hard” formula–this time aboard a jumbo jet that, unfortunately , runs out of gas before landing. Nevertheless, “Passenger 57” is a reasonably saucy action tale and could generate early box office sparks in urban areas if fueled by the right marketing approach.
Foremost, the movie should serve as a real test of the drawing power of star Wesley Snipes, cutting his teeth as a big-time action hero while surrounded by a cast of unknowns. It also flags actor-turned-director Kevin Hooks (who made his feature debut on “Strictly Business”) as another promising talent to watch among the current class of young African-
One of the film’s major problems precedes take-off, due to the claustrophobic limitations of setting so much of the narrative on a jet and the numerous coincidences involved in the set-up.
For starters, newly hired airline security expert John Cutter (Snipes) and an international terrorist in FBI custody end up on the same flight. At least the filmmakers recognize that absurdity when someone asks why a known hijacker would be transported by air.
With his henchmen on board disguised as crew members, the lead baddie seizes the jet, murdering the FBI agents and pilot, leaving it to Cutter to stop them, fighting off the emotional baggage of having lost his wife under similar circumstances.
He soon manages to force a landing and the action moves to the ground, as Cutter escapes but gets grief from the local redneck sheriff (Ernie Lively) before a helpful FBI man (Robert Hooks, the director’s dad) shows up. The climax then occurs back on the airborne plane.
Snipes seems to relish his opportunity to play this cross between John Shaft and “Die Hard’s” John McClane, but David Loughery and Dan Gordon’s script doesn’t give him much room to operate. Still, his inherent likability and his physical presence establish him as a credible action star who could benefit fromstronger material.
Payne’s perfectly hissable villain contributes greatly to maintaining the film’s intensity most of the way, but the limp payoff has about as much excitement as collecting luggage at LAX.
Tech credits are sound, including a jaunty Stanley Clarke.