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Film / Terminal Velocity (1994)

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Terminal Velocity is a 1994 American action thriller film directed by Deran Sarafian and starring Charlie Sheen, Nastassja Kinski, James Gandolfini, and Christopher McDonald.

Former Olympic gymnast-turned-daredevil skydiver Ditch Brodie (Sheen), who's the owner of a jump school, is approached by a beautiful but nervous woman named Chris Morrow (Kinski), who insists upon performing a static jump from cruising altitude immediately. Playing along due to her flirtatious attitude, Ditch agrees to take her despite claims that she's never skydived before. During the flight over, a confusing incident ends with Chris leaping out on her own, and despite Ditch's best attempts, he's unable to save her before she hits the ground at terminal velocity. An investigation ensues, and the school is closed down indefinitely.

Ditch feels guilty about her death, but nonetheless confused by the circumstances surrounding it, so when he finds evidence contradicting Chris' claims, and gets attacked by the mysterious Kerr (McDonald), he finds himself not only looking to clear his name, but also to survive, while finding allies and enemies in the least-expected places.

Not to be confused with the 1995 game.

This film provides examples of:

  • Bait-and-Switch: Chris appears to have been stabbed to death by Pinkwater, with Ditch cradling her in his arms. Cut to Moscow, where a woman is sitting at a row of seats tearing up, implying to be at Chris's funeral, only to cut to the injured Chris and Ditch receiving their medals.
  • Clear My Name: Ditch has to clear his name after being accused of manslaughter for Chris' death in confusing circumstances. Chris ends up helping him after revealing that she had faked her death.
  • Cool Car: Kerr's red Cadillac Allante with Northstar engine and digital gauges. Ditch's 1970 Dodge Challenger also fits. Ben is less than impressed by the Allante.
    Ben: What's with the car?
    Kerr: This is a Cadillac Allante Northstar Edition. Double the horsepower. They don't make 'em anymore. It's an American collectible classic.
    Ben: (lets out a small laugh) Okay. Put the ridiculous car on the plane and then leave me alone.
    Kerr: It gets noticed!
  • Disney Villain Death: On the falling car, Ditch manages to fight off Kerr, which results in this for him.
  • Extreme Sports Plot: One of Ditch's clients gets killed in a skydive accident on his watch and he has to clear his name. Things become a lot weirder really quick, and stunts that involve falling from great heights with a parachute happen repeatedly.
  • Faking the Dead: After seemingly dying in a fall, it's later revealed that Chris was alive and well, having faked her death to throw off the men behind her.
  • Gratuitous Russian: Given that the antagonists are Russian, this happens a lot. However, when the antagonists are trying to speak Russian, due to none of them actually being Russian, the results are pretty unimpressive.
  • Just Plane Wrong: The Boeing 747 loaded with gold is supposed to be owned by the East German airline Interflug, which was defunct by 1994 and never had any 747.
  • Helicopter Blender: Ditch ends up making Pinkwater get sucked onto a wind generator by pulling his back-up chute. We don't get to see the blending, but the next scene shows one of the blades with blood on it, implying it killed him. The blade has no damage whatsoever, despite the rather muscular human that slammed on it.
  • It's Raining Men: Well, it is a movie about skydiving, so lots of people falling from the sky, at great height, then landing safely are seen.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Inexperienced woman seemingly killed skydiving —-> plot by ex-KGB operatives to steal gold and finance a coup against the Russian government.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Ben Pinkwater first appears as harmless and clumsy district attorney. He is actually a violent and dangerous former KGB operative
  • The Precious, Precious Car: In the climax, Kerr's car gets driven out of a plane. And Kerr leaps out after it. It does not go well for him.
  • Renegade Russian: It's revealed by Chris that she and her pursuers are former KGB operatives left unemployed due to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and that the men have fallen in with the Russian mob, hijacked a massive shipment of gold bullion intended for the Moscow reserve, and are intending to use it to finance a coup d'état against the democratic Russian government.
  • Terminology Title: The films takes its title from the name given to the maximum speed a falling object can attain, something that certainly comes a lot in skydiving.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: A rare mutual example Chris calls out Ditch for his lack of caring with regards to the potential costs to the entire world should they fail. Ditch responds by pointing out that he has been used, deceived and dragged into a situation a civilian like him shouldn’t have been involved with to begin with.

Alternative Title(s): Terminal Velocity