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It might not seem so long ago, but it’s been almost twenty years since we snickered during The World Is Not Enough when we were asked to accept former fashion model Denise Richards as a nuclear physicist. Now, it’s a highly-trained FBI agent in a story that is as equally ridiculous as that James Bond film but at least it knows it.
Any movie that features Dolph Lundgren flying a hijacked jet plane through a storm at night to the music of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries surely understands its audience, and if the combination of Richards and Lundgren isn’t already enough to give fair warning where this movie is headed, that should. Some give big, loud, action blockbuster movies a pass as buttered popcorn, check your brain at the door escapism, and if that is this case, then titles like this are spoonfuls of pure cane pixie sugar. There’s nothing good about them except for a shot of hollow fun.
We meet agent Gretchen Blair (Richards), taking a hostage negotiation into her own hands that gets her a suspension. She ends up on a flight to D.C. and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a group of seriously high-level thieves on board who have tracked down one of their own, a man named Terry (Kirk Barker) who betrayed them and ran off with something rather valuable. Now the bad guys, led by a tough as nails blonde named Sadie (Greer Grammer) and mountainous pilot Sharpe (Lundgren), take over the plane to get back what they claim is theirs. It’s up to Blair to stop them.
Directed by Alex Merkin, Altitude is a by-the-numbers thrillers that holds pretty tightly to the tropes of the genre, giving it a bit of a twist by putting a female in the, let’s say, Steven Seagal role. That means something perhaps, and while Richards was barely believable as a scientist twenty years ago, she’s at least a bit more convincing as a veteran law enforcement officer. The movie hardly takes itself seriously, almost poking fun at the clichés and surely meaning to be as absurd as it is, escalating that absurdity to its own goofy finale that is well, more like an Austin Powers moment than anything James Bond.
Richards sells it as best she can, and at least the dialogue isn’t so bad even if the script can’t resist a few obvious pitfalls, including a rookie air marshal and a few too-on-the-nose passengers who create some easy conflicts. Unfortunately, Lundgren is literally buckled to one seat for most of the film and therefore has no chance to be the muscle, his impressive presence almost completely wasted. Grammer, however, is fun in the sexy villain role and deliciously takes to the part with plenty of zeal. She’s got some chops and surely will be seen a lot more soon enough.
Films like this are a little hard to nail down, and sort of deserve a little slack for their low budgets and short shooting schedules, but for what it is, Altitude is not lacking for interest. While it’s a gumball movie, soon to be lost in heaps of assorted look-a-likes in the bin, for the 88 minutes it runs and the commitment to the premise it keeps, this is a fun little distraction. Results may vary.
Movie description: Altitude is a 2017 independent action film about an FBI agent offered a huge sum of money to help a thief escape a hijacked airliner.
Director(s): Alex Merkin
Actor(s): Denise Richards, Dolph Lundgren, Jonathan Lipnicki, Greer Grammer