Turbulence raises a good point—why bother trying to make a good serial killer thriller? Ray Liotta runs rampant throughout the film, having serving after serving of scenery. The script’s got a bunch of dialogue issues in the third act, but none of them bother Liotta, who’s operating at way too high an adrenaline level to be bothered.
The script’s sort of dumb, sure, but it’s serviceable. The film’s mostly well-cast. Lauren Holly’s not great, but she’s likable enough the audience doesn’t want to see her get hurt by a serial killer. Rachel Ticotin, Jeffrey DeMunn and Michael Harney are all good in little parts. Catherine Hicks has a slightly bigger role and she’s excellent.
There are the problems with the cast too and with a stronger cast, Turbulence might have better maintained its disaster movie meets serial killer thriller vibe (the film’s got a lot of comparisons to Executive Decision actually). Hector Elizondo is relatively weak as the cop after Liotta. John Finn’s bad as a sexist FBI agent. And then someone thought casting Brendan Gleeson as a redneck was a good idea… Gleeson’s awful. His accent turns his scenes into something akin to The Naked Gun.
Besides the general solidness of the cast and setting (an empty, out of control airline, already uncanny, in the dark, with Christmas lights everywhere), Butler makes Turbulence work. He’s a long-time TV director and he brings a high level of competence to the film.
Even the CG is reasonably acceptable.