There’s a hostage crisis involving terrorists, but fortunately, America has FBI agent Jack Bender — no kidding, Jack Bender — to save the day. Clearly desperate to conjure the same thrills as “24,” “Final Approach,” a two-part, four-hour movie — crunched into a three-hour telecast — is less a summer adrenaline rush than an entire baggage-claim area full of cliches, with Dean Cain as an intrepid G man conveniently flying the unfriendly skies. From “Passenger 57” and “Executive Decision” to “Die Hard 2” and that other Jack on Fox, you’ve seen it all before — and executed considerably better.
The action opens with a raid on a white supremacist compound that ends in a career-threatening dispute between Jack (Cain) and shoot-first ATF agent Lorenzo Dawson (Ernie Hudson). Skip forward a few beats and Jack’s on a plane seized by a ruthless armed band, led by Greg Gilliad (Anthony Michael Hall), saying they want their fearless leader released from prison.
What follows is the usual cat-and-mouse game, with the drama ensuing both on the ground — where a kidnapping hints at the perpetrators’ larger motives — and in the air. In the process, there’s a fair amount of automatic weapons fire and neck snapping, which is apparently a lot easier than it looks.
The only vaguely unexpected wrinkle here is that Jack enlists others passengers — including the engineer next to him (Barry Livingston) and a beautiful stewardess (Sunny Mabrey, seen aboard another unlucky commuter jet in “Snakes on a Plane”) to assist him in tackling the bad guys. Even that, however, obviously aspires to the stirring can-do attitude of “United 93,” albeit tepidly so.
The resume of writers Adam Armus and Kay Foster includes “Heroes,” but the no-frills story directed by Armand Mastroianni fails to generate a single original beat, making you wish Cain — who, to his credit, gives the slim material his all — could dust off that old Superman cape and finish this standoff more expeditiously.
Others along for the ride include Lea Thompson as Jack’s FAA official wife, Richard Roundtree as her boss on the ground and Tracey Gold as a TV reporter dispatching video phone reports back to her air-headed colleagues.
In a boon to lazier critics, Hallmark’s press release not only bills the project as a perfect summer-kickoff suspense tale but helpfully lists all the movies that “Final Approach” copies. Interesting strategy, but there must be a better alternative route than this available for those determined to avoid Memorial Day weekend travel.