Am I nuts paying a $7.99 PPV rental fee for a direct-to-video potboiler from The Asylum? Should I have waited until it appeared on the Syfy Channel for free or, better yet, as a free-with-ads stream on Tubi TV?
Ah, but this non-stop action potboiler stars the never disappointing, Chinese-American actress Bai Ling (Dumplings*) hoping back into the cockpit after the fun ride that was Exorcism at 60,000 Feet. And that was, if you haven’t guessed from the title, basically Evil Dead on an airliner. So, does this mean we’re getting a 747 going head-to-head with sharksodactyl?
Oops. Never assume anything when it comes to The Asylum.
This time out, The Asylum dispenses with their usual genre mash-ups and gets back into the mockbuster disaster movie business — under the skilled eye Asylum workhorse Rob Pallatina. You’ve seen his work as an editor and director for the studio with the likes of 2-Headed, 3-Headed, 5-Headed Shark Attack on the Syfy Channel and . . . if you’re a holiday dork like Samuel and I, you’ve watched Pallatina’s Christmas flick oeuvre of A Christmas Wedding Date, A Very Merry Toy Store, and A Very Nutty Christmas. Will we watch the upcoming Dear Christmas, Feliz NaviDAD, and Once Upon a Mainstreet?
With Pallatina’s name on it? Of course, we will! Remember, the B&S About Movies crew worships at the altar of Brett Piper (Queen Crab) and Mark Polonia (Shark Encounters of the Third Kind). Seriously, how can you not like a guy who does his part to bring us movies like Nazis at the Center of the Earth, and now, battling 747s?
So, yes. B&S About Movies is all in with Mr. Pallatina on this, his eight directing effort that, if you know your Pallatina oeuvres like we do, he’s familiar with the airline disasters milieu, courtesy of his third film, which was the 2018 Satan-on-a-plane romp Flight 666. The script comes courtesy of editor and casting director Alex Heerman (reality TV’s America Ninja Warrior and Masterchef) in his screenwriting debut — which we trust we be his first of many Final Draft ditties for The Asylum.
Yeah, I know. Everyone knocks The Asylum. But you know what? Pallatina and Heerman brewed one hell of an entertaining, non-stop over-the-top actioner . . . that’s lacking in realism, rife with strained acting encased in bad sets accentuated with obvious CGI-shots that fail to cover plot holes large enough to, well, fly a 747 through — with plenty of space to spare. But like a celluloid Energizer bunny, this movie just keeps on giving and giving, just like the low-budget Drive-In romps of yore. Just when you think it can’t get any more absurd . . . it does! And we love it!
So, in today’s in today’s sociopolitical climate, it’s all about bad rappin’ the Russians, as Middle Eastern baddies are now cinema passé. But we’re sure U.S. filmmakers will soon be serving up Chinese baddies to pinch-hit for the Reds. Or give us a Russian-China tag team dropping virus-filled bombs from a Goodyear Blimp on a football game in some Black Sunday-cum-Two-Minute Warning knockoff. Eh, so much for Sting’s commentary-out cry regarding Russia’s Cold War foreign policy and MAD doctrine. Obviously, these Reds of Airliner Sky Battle didn’t attend Sting’s October 2017 Russian concerts. Or appreciate Stallone’s big speech (Ugh, I know that clip embed, beneath, won’t last.) at the end of Rocky IV.
So, our cliched bad-Russian operatives are up to their usual international hijinks as they hijack a commercial American jet, which they’ll kamikaze into a nuclear power plant near Washington, D.C. — all for the love of Mother Russia — resulting in a fallout that will devastate the Eastern seaboard. And while the Russians (posing as airplane cleaners; so much for the cogs n’ gears of The Patriot Act) go all kamikaze on our Yank asses, the U.S. Air Force — when we’re at Defcon 1 and need to flush the bombers — goes all Keystone Cops. Where’s General Jack Beringer to piss on a sparkplug (Again, cursed fan-clip embeds!) when we need ’em? Not here! For this is the Asylum-verse, kiddies.
But how is this possible? We’re the world’s foremost superpower! Well, it seems a computer virus locked down the U.S. military mainframe, disabling our ability to launch a counteroffensive, because well, you know, the voting machines hacking-scam became boring.
And who will save us? Why, the marquee named Bai Ling, as Dr. Meili Liu, of course!
Meanwhile, up the air, the crew and passengers of another flight (the new-to-the-screen DeAngelo Davis, Xavi Isreal, and Alyson Gorske; each holding their own with aplomb in their first starring roles), which took off from the same airport, chase down the Russian terrorists. Of course, those passengers have just enough military and civilian-professional training to make it all work. And beware of the free-falling beverage carts!
Yeah, this is a big, dumb, stupid retro-sky where the rules of aerodynamics and physics do not apply . . . and so were the blinded-by-science ’90s actioners this Pallatina-Heerman brouhaha pinches from, such as Die Hard 2 (1990), Speed (1994), Executive Decision (1996), The Rock (1996), Air Force One (1997), and Con Air (1997), and Fast Five (2011). In fact, if you change out the airliner, here, for a skyscraper, and cast the Dwayne Johnson, and have Universal throw in a $120-plus million, you’d have, well Skyscraper. Okay, actually the cheaper-but-fun knockoff Crystal Inferno, aka Inferno: Skyscraper Escape, but you git what we’re gittin’ at, right, Cletus?
The Abortionist *
Speaking of Dumplings: Bai Ling and Fruit Chan are back together — in a familiarly-themed film — in the 2019 Cantonese-Mardarin language drama, The Abortionist. Nominated in the “Leading Actress” and “Best Director” categories for this year’s Golden Horse Awards held in Taiwan (in November), Ling stars as a Tai chi teacher with a secret life as a black-market abortionist. You’ll remember Ling won dual “Best Supporting Actress” awards at the Hong Kong Film Awards and Golden Horse Awards for Dumplings, Chan’s segment of the Three Extremes omnibus, in 2004.
Hopefully, Ling and Chan will win in their respective categories, which will encourage an American distributor to release The Abortionist in the Western-domestic marketplace. At the very lest, we’ll hopefully be able to see The Abortionist on the free-with-ads stream Tubi TV platform, which afforded us the opportunity to discover and enjoy the recent Asian-imports Daughter and 0.0 MHz.
Argh! Bai Ling lost her leading actress nod to Chen Shu-fang in Little Big Women, while Fruit Chan lost his director’s nod to Chen Yu-hsun for My Missing Valentine. But we still have our fingers crossed The Abortionist will make it to American streaming shores.
You can watch Airliner Sky Battle as a PPV across various cable systems and stream it as a VOD on Amazon Prime and Microsoft, and as a stream or DVD rental from Red Box.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.