Passenger 57 was directed by Kevin Hooks (Black Dog, Fled), written by David Loughery (Shattered, Dreamscape), Stewart Raffill (Tammy and the T-Rex, High Risk) and Dan Gordon (Murder in the First, Tank), and stars Wesley Snipes (Demolition Man, Blade), Bruce Payne (Pit Stop, The Rizen), Tom Sizemore (Project Skyquake, Megalodon Rising), Alex Datcher (The Expert, Rage and Honor), Bruce Greenwood (Spectral, Star Trek Into Darkness), Elizabeth Hurley (Bedazzled, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery), Robert Hooks (Trouble Man, Airport ’77), and Ernie Lively (Showdown in Little Tokyo, Hard to Kill). It follows a retired Secret Service officer who must take action when the plane he is travelling on is seized by terrorists.
The Plot: Passenger 57’s plotting should be very familiar to anyone who has seen more than 4 action movies. Just before Rane (Payne), a prolific terrorist, is about to get his face reconstructed to escape authorities, they apprehend him. Shortly after, John (Snipes) is approached by his old friend Sly (Sizemore) on behalf of Ramsey (Greenwood) who wants John to be vice president of security for an airliner.
John boards a flight to follow up on the offer; the same flight that the FBI is using to take Rane to prison. On board are flight attendants Marti (Datcher) and Sabrina (Hurley), who is working with Rane. Rane and his people take over the flight and John brings it down. John is separated from the plane and ends up with Biggs (Lively), a police chief who does not trust him. John must take down Rane with next to no help.
The Characters: Characters are pretty mediocre. John used to have a wife until she was killed in a grocery store robbery. He left his secret security job and became an instructor for flight attendants, showing them how to defend themselves. Although this does not make much sense because John is bad at dealing with flights, and knows the ins and outs of planes, despite being secret service and not directly related to aviation. Rane is completely over-the-top, having killed his father and has a massive ego partially because of it. Sly is entertaining, not a deep character, but he does have some good lines, lots of charisma, and has a prior relationship with John. Everyone else leaves no marks.
Performances are mixed, Snipes does fine with the material but never elevates it with emotion or passion. Payne brings life to a lumbering film, with commanding delivery and a steely gaze piercing the other characters. Sizemore is solid, giving off his usual charm and energetic attitude to a snappy character that would have been worse without him.
The Action: Action is forgettable. While the shootouts and melees are competently filmed, there are never any special set pieces that give any scenes a memorable series of events, all of the action becomes a blur. While the setting is ripe for close-quarters combat with knives and fists, moments like that only ever occur once or twice, with some choreography or a lack thereof those scenes would have made more of an impact.
A fairground becomes an important setting in the latter half of Passenger 57 but the same bag of tricks used in numerous other action movies is still drawn from in all but a single instance involving a carousel, leaving the potential for tongue-in-cheek action as just that: potential. Something less serious may have helped the movie, as its villain is a complete madman.
The Technics: Technically Passenger 57 is a mixed bag. The locations look very convincing, the plane has the right width and interior to immerse the audience completely into the setting. The same can be said for the fairground; which looks like the scenes there were filmed on location, adding to the believability of the story. Music does hinder the tension of the movie though. It is placed in the right places most of the time, but the tone of the music can seem a lot more lighthearted than what befits the current events.
The second half of Passenger 57 takes a nose-dive (pun intended), the aerial confinements make for a much more intimidating environment where the hero has to be smart about his decision-making, and the enemies seem more in control than they are.
Passenger 57 is a clear Die Hard knockoff that does have the benefit of Bruce Payne’s well-articulated and brutal villain, and Tom Sizemore’s charismatic performance, and some good one-liners, but suffers due to generic writing and a second half that is a lot less tense than the first. The whole “Die Hard on a plane” bent was done better with Die Hard’s own sequel and Air Force One.