Friday, October 31, 2008
Terminal Velocity (1994)
Released in 1994 to almost universal critical disdain and poor box-office receipts, Terminal Velocity is exactly the rather lame and mindless failure most people considered upon its original release. Unfortunately it would also be the highest profile American film Nastassja Kinski had made since the disastrously received Revolution nearly a decade before. Coming on the heels of a such an ambitious and well meaning film like Faraway, So Close, Terminal Velocity seems even all the more vapid and lifeless and it remains among the worst films Nastassja Kinski ever appeared in.
Of course, little of the blame for Terminal Velocity’s failure can be placed at the feet of Nastassja Kinski. Poorly scripted David Twohy and blandly directed by Deran Sarafian with a weak lead performance by Charlie Sheen (who seems to be here just to pick up a paycheck), Terminal Velocity feels like a doomed production all the way through with only some good stunt work and a couple of decent action sequences distinguishing it.
Astonishingly, Sheen and Kinski weren’t the only talented and high profiled actors attached to this limp work. Everyone from future Sopranos star James Gandolfini to legendary filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles to Brooke Langton are featured and wasted in the film.
There is some hefty talent behind the scenes talent as well who do some of the most un-noteworthy work of their careers including BAFTA nominated cinematographer Oliver Wood and usually reliable composer Joel McNeely. Everyone working on Terminal Velocity, outside of the stunt crew headed by Buddy Jo Hooker, just seem like they are on autopilot.
Charlie Sheen had hit a bad spot in his career in 1994 and was caught between his earlier fine dramatic work with the likes of Oliver Stone and his current status as popular television comedian. He’s at his worst in Terminal Velocity and sleepwalks through the role, plus he has less chemistry with Kinski than probably any male lead has had in a film with her before or since.
Like in the previously lame action flick she had just appeared in, Crackerjack, Nastassja isn’t given much to do here and there isn’t really a part for her to elevate. She’s simply the girl in the film and as in Crackerjack (or any number of unfortunate films she has shot since) she is simply too big for the role…to say it is beneath her is an incredible understatement.
Terminal Velocity limped into theaters in the fall of 1994 and it disappeared soon after. Budgeted at a whopping 50 million, it only grossed 16 and was one of the biggest disappointments of the year. A minor hit on home video and TV, it is still in print on a barebones widescreen DVD.