Directed by Darren Sarafian in 1994, Terminal Velocity stars Charlie Sheen at the height of his powers as a skydiver named Richard Brody - but all his friends call him Ditch. He's not the type to care about rules, in fact, he's a bit of a thrill seeker - when we first meet him he's jumped out of an airplane and sailing to safety with a star spangled parachute right in the busy part of town. He's that kind of guy, the kind that will jump out of a plane, ride a motorcycle to safety and then make a pass at your girlfriend, but he also takes his job as a skydiving instructor pretty seriously.
So seriously does he take it, in fact, that he's clueless as to how the pretty blonde that just talked him into taking her up for a jump - Chris Morrow (Nastassja Kinski) - managed to fall out of the plane to her death. Even the pilot he used on the trip (Melvin Van Peebles) can't explain it, but the cops figure it must have been negligence on his part and now he's in some hot water. There's a catch though - Chris isn't dead, in fact, Chris isn't Chris. She's actually a Russian agent named Krista Moldova who is a former K.G.B. agent who is in the states to stop some corrupt Russian gangsters lead by a man named Ben Pinkwater (James Gandolfini) from snapping up an abandoned airplane that's just loaded with hot Russian gold.
From its goofy flag waving beginning to its Return Of The Jedi inspired finale (just try not to think of that scene where they all get medals at the end!), Sarafian's film is high on action and very light on substance. Ditch Brody is the same kind of character we've seen in plenty of other action movies, the rebellious type who winds up saving the day, the bad boy who does the right thing. Kinski's character is no less of a cliché or a stereotype, she's the tough and mysterious girl who is just as at home kicking ass as she is making out with the good guy. Both performers play their respective roles about as good as the script will allow them and both infuse a fair bit of good natured humor and energy into their parts, which goes a long way towards making this movie as entertaining as it is. James Gandolfini is also pretty good here as the lead villain in a performance that foreshadows the role he would play in Tony Scott's excellent True Romance, though the PG-13 rating means that he doesn't get as nasty or as violent here as he would in that later picture. Don't go looking for depth here, there's none, but entertainment value is plentiful so long as you're willing and able to throw realism to the wind and just go along for the ride.
Sarafian, who had previously directed Jean Claude Van Damme in Death Warrant and who is fairly adapt at staging good action scenes, keeps the moving going at a good pace. Just as it seems things might be slowing down our heroes will get attacked by gun toting mobsters aboard an abandoned plane left to rot out in the desert sun or they'll jump out of a plane and only narrowly avoid death by wind turbine. Again, we have trouble suspending our disbelief or taking any of this too seriously but there are moments throughout the script where the infusion of light humor ensures that we're really not supposed to even try to in the first place.
In the end, it's easy to see why Sheen's start was on the rise around this time. Before he'd descend into whatever it is that he's descended into these days, he was likeable and charismatic and fun in these types of films. This isn't one that will make you think but neither is it one that will make you cringe, it's simply good natured big budget Hollywood junk food for the eyes, a beer and pizza movie if ever there was one.
Terminal Velocity looks pretty good on Blu-ray by way of this AVC encoded 2.40.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer. For a film almost two decades old, the movie looks pretty good here. Detail is definitely far above what you'd get from a standard definition presentation while color reproduction looks pretty natural. The dusty hues of the desert offer a nice background for the action to play off against while the oranges and reds of the explosions look quite nice too. There are some shots that definitely look softer than others, and we'll assume this has as much to do with the original photography as it does with the transfer, but overall the movie is clean and detailed without any issues relating to obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement and showing only some minor banding in some scenes.
The primary audio track on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix, though DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo tracks are provided in French and Spanish with optional subtitles (IN ALL CAPS!) provided in English only. There's some solid surround activity present throughout the movie, especially during the skydiving scenes where you'll notice the woops and swirls of the wind and the revving of the plane engines. The film's score, mostly made up of 'hard rock' style bits and pieces, has some good punch to it and the levels are properly balanced throughout ensuring that the movie's super deep dialogue is always easy enough to understand. This isn't a reference quality mix, it's not quite that intense or that directionally defined, but it's solid through and through.
Aside from some animated menus and chapter stops, the only extra is a trailer for the feature.
Terminal Velocity certainly isn't going to win any awards but as far as completely brainless action movies go, it is a lot of fun. This new Blu-ray release from Mill Creek Entertainment doesn't offer up much in the way of extra features but it does give the film a solid audio and video presentation and at a more than affordable price point. Recommended for established fans of the movie, a very solid rental for everyone else who can appreciate a good, goofy action movie.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.