1994 Directed by Deran Sarafian. Starring Charlie Sheen, Nastassja Kinski, James Gandolfini, Christopher McDonald.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Sept. 23, 1994
Charlie Sheen's name is an almost perfect anagram for “Hail Cheese,” which makes almost perfect sense in light of this post-summer blockbuster wannabe. Playing off the success of Keanu Reeves' turn in Speed and James Cameron's True Lies, Terminal Velocity is the story of a maverick skydiving instructor (Sheen) curiously named Ditch. When Ditch loses a first-time student to the laws of gravity (Kinski, whose early-in-the-film portrayal of a giggly blonde airhead is cloyingly dead-on), it looks as though the Feds are going to come down hard on both himself and the ParaCenter out of which he works. It comes as quite a shock, then, to find out that, not only is the woman not dead, she's also a renegade KGB (or “KG-used-to-Be, as Sheen so succinctly puts it) agent working beyond the pale stateside. This sets the stage for a stunt and effects-laden free-for-all that quickly degenerates into one of the most contrived and desperate-to-please action plots in years. It's not that David Twohy's script is bad -- it's awful, crammed with mind-boggling improbabilities and gigantic leaps of faith that -- stunningly -- actually pale beside the steady stream of rank, tired witticisms that flow like verbal sewage from Sheen's wiseacre mouth. It's bad enough when Schwarzenegger and Van Damme attempt clever repartee, but it's a felony offense to give Sheen this much rope. Kinski (?!) is adequate as the KGB pariah, but only just. It's clearly not her type of film, and rumors of heated offscreen battles between herself and Sheen only serve to point up that fact. Stunt fans will find plenty of aerial acrobatics to slake their thirsts, including a dizzying, Houdini-esque gag involving an airborne transport plane and an equally untethered sports car. Stuntwork aside, though, perhaps this film would have been more aptly titled Terminal Stupidity.