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[Blu-ray Review] ‘Altitude’ Fails to Get Off the Ground

Alex Merkin’s Altitude has all the makings for a direct-to-video action movie. There are name actors that people will know even if they’re not currently relevant, in this case Dolph Lundgren (ok, Dolph will forever be relevant to me but fools may view him differently) and Denise Richards, a pseudo-celebrity crossing over to acting — Chuck Liddell — and a title that puts it towards the top of the alphabet. This last part is actually important for DTV flicks because people are much more likely to scroll across a title that begins with A than they to come across something that begins with Z. Basically, Altitude was designed to be a cheap action flick that is mildly entertaining but enough so that people will check it out and that’s exactly what it is.

Richard stars as Gretchen Blair, an FBI agent who was recently demoted to a desk job because she can’t help but play by her own rules. On her flight to D.C. to start her new position she is seated next to a charming British man named Terry (Kirk Barker). Terry is very giddy and excited to be aboard the plane. He’s flying to D.C. to catch another plane back to Europe. Terry and Gretchen’s current moods couldn’t be anymore opposite. Terry tries to start small talk with Gretchen but she wants to no part of it.

Terry’s mood swiftly changes when he spots some old friends — Matthew (Lundgren), Sadie (Grammer) and Rawbones (Liddell) — on the plane as well. See the problem is that Terry and those other three were a team of criminals and they just had a big score, but Terry decided to double cross them. He took all the money for himself and was planning to run off to Europe with it. His old friends being on his flight changes things drastically.

Unsure of what to do Terry goes to Gretchen for help after learning she’s an FBI agent. He explains the situation and offers her millions if she’ll help him get off the plane. Gretchen isn’t too eager to help a thief like Terry, but she must do whatever she can to prevent the plane from being hijacked.

I go into every Dolph Lundgren gung-ho! Next to Nic Cage he’s probably my favorite actor in terms of who I enjoy to watch on screen. Unfortunately, Altitude is hardly a Dolph Lundgren movie. There isn’t any of that cool Dolph action or cool Dolph dialogue that we’ve come to love over the years. Instead Dolph’s Matthew takes a backseat to Grammer’s Sadie. Sadie is the leader of their band of thieves and she spends a great deal of the film ordering Dolph and Liddell around. And as an added bit of weirdness Sadie and Matthew appear to be a couple. This feels odd since there is a huge age gap. An older actress would have been better suited for the role of Sadie.

Despite Grammer being too young for the role of Sadie, she does have a fun take on her. She plays Sadie as completely insane and over-the-top. For many people she’ll be the most memorable part of the film.

Richards is the lead and has plenty of screen time and does a pretty good job given what she had to work with. Her as the FBI agent worked for me and I’d love to see her do something similar in a better film. She’s more than capable of carrying a movie, so let’s give her something good to carry. Her best stuff in Altitude comes when she interacts with Barker’s Terry. There was some chemistry forming there and I could have watched those two on screen the whole time and enjoyed myself.

Liddell is just a goon. Nothing more.

Jonathan Lipnicki appears in the film briefly in a very strange role as a flight attendant. While going over the safety features he performs a dance routine for the passengers. The odd part is that this didn’t feel out of place to me. Flight attendants do this type of stuff, at least they do when you fly Southwest.

When you make a low budget DTV action movie that takes place on a plane you’re putting yourself in a tough spot. You set the expectation that something cool will happen on that plane and you have the audience strapping in for a big crash landing. When you’re dealing with budget restrictions this is understandably hard to pull off and that’s ok as long as you make up for it. Give me some better action within the plane. Give me something interesting. Altitude doesn’t do any of that.

Altitude is available on Blu-ray but there aren’t any special features outside of a trailer for the film. I understand why films like this don’t get special features. There isn’t any time for that when you’re doing DTV stuff, but it would still be cool to have a few interviews at least. You can take 10 minutes for each actor and talk to them on set and then tack that on here. Maybe there wouldn’t be much there but I bet you’d get at least a few interesting comments and quotes on what everyone was thinking on set.

If you’re a big Dolph fan like me you may want to see this just so you can add to your list of Dolph movies watched. Outside of that though, there isn’t much reason to watch this. If you come across it on cable and you’re too lazy to change the channel, then yeah, this is fine, but don’t go out of your way.

Altitude is now available on Blu-ray from Lionsgate.

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