Terminal Velocity (film)

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Terminal Velocity
Film poster
Directed byDeran Sarafian
Produced byRon Booth
Tom Engelman
Scott Kroopf
Written byDavid Twohy
Music byJoel McNeely
CinematographyOliver Wood
Edited byFrank J. Urioste
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • September 23, 1994 (1994-09-23)
Running time
102 min.
CountryUnited States
Budget$50 million
Box office$47 million

Terminal Velocity is a 1994 American action film directed by Deran Sarafian, written by David Twohy, and starring Charlie Sheen, Nastassja Kinski, James Gandolfini, and Christopher McDonald. It follows a daredevil skydiver (Sheen) who is caught up in a criminal plot by Russian mobsters (Gandolfini and McDonald), forcing him to team up with a freelance secret agent (Kinski) in order to survive. It was one of two skydiving-themed action films released in the fourth quarter of 1994 (the other being Paramount Pictures' Drop Zone), and received mostly negative reviews from critics.


About to leave the country, a young Russian woman is ambushed in her Tucson apartment after calling her contact about a Boeing 747 she witnessed landing in the desert. The lead assailant Kerr, tortures her for information about her roommate before drowning her in an aquarium and leaving her body in the shower.

Former Olympic gymnast-turned-daredevil skydiver Ditch Brodie's jump school is under tight scrutiny by the FAA after a string of federal violations, culminating in an illegal BASE jump off a skyscraper. Upon returning to his school, he's approached by a beautiful but nervous woman named Chris Morrow, who insists on performing a static jump from cruising altitude immediately. Playing along due to her flirtatious attitude, Ditch agrees to take her despite claims that she has never skydived before. During the flight over, Chris briefly spots another aircraft below. When Ditch checks the plane's mechanical status with his pilot, Chris cuts ties with Ditch before leaping out on her own. Ditch spots Chris tumbling uncontrollably below him, and despite his best attempts, is unable to save her before she hits the ground at terminal velocity. An investigation ensues, and the school is closed down indefinitely.

Feeling guilty but confused, Ditch rifles through Chris' personal belongings, finding her apartment and using her house key to get in. Upon finding a photograph of Chris performing a jump, thus contradicting her earlier claim of inexperience, Ditch is attacked by Kerr, and barely escapes with his life. Returning to the flight school, Ditch is approached by Assistant District Attorney Ben Pinkwater, who tells Ditch he may be brought up on charges of manslaughter for Chris' death. While reviewing footage of the fall taken by a colleague, Ditch spots a single-engine aircraft beneath his own prior to and during the jump. Ditch spots the plane stalking him, and follows it to a remote shack in the desert, where he finds Chris alive and well. She explains having faked her death using her deceased roommate's body in an identical jumpsuit before taking Ditch on an unexplained nighttime jump at an aeronautics plant, promising to clear his name if he co-operates. Chris has Ditch infiltrate the plant via a smokestack and disable the security system before stealing a hidden optical disc. Ditch is discovered when Kerr and his men arrive, forcing him to flee from gunfire back to his school. Wanting his name cleared, he arranges a meeting with Chris and Pinkwater at a scrapyard, but upon arriving Ben kills Chris' partner Lex, revealing himself to be a cohort of Kerr's. A firefight ensues, and Chris and Ditch escape using a makeshift rocket car.

Taking shelter in a desert shack, Chris reveals that her real name is Krista Moldova, and that she and her pursuers are former KGB operatives left unemployed due to the collapse of the Soviet Union. "Pinkwater" and his men, formerly her allies, have fallen in with the Russian mob, and have hijacked a massive shipment of gold bullion intended for the Moscow reserve, and intend to use it to finance a coup d'état against the democratic Russian government. Her roommate was a fellow agent killed after discovering the location of the bullion. Using the optical disc retrieved by Ditch, Chris is able to determine the location of the Boeing 747 carrying the shipment. She and Ditch get on board and find the gold, but are discovered by Pinkwater's before being able to move it. The two barely escape, and Ditch, tired of being used by Chris, shouts her out before demanding to be left alone. Hurt, Chris heads off on her own to face Pinkwater.

As Ditch is about to leave on a bus, he finds a reel of pictures taken by Chris holding up a sign reading "Ditch Brodie Did Not Kill Me," thereby exonerating him. Having a change of heart, Ditch drives off to the airfield just as Pinkwater in his men take off, having captured Chris. Posing as an FAA agent, Ditch convinces a biplane stunt pilot to fly him on an interception course with the 747. Ditch gets on board via the cargo hold, just as Chris is stuffed in the trunk of Kerr's sports car to be killed. Ditch and Kerr get into a fight, driving the car out of the cargo hold and plummeting toward the ground below. Ditch manages to force Kerr off as he fell several thousands of feet to his death, and get Chris out of the trunk before it hits the ground upon impact. Pulling his chute, the two land in a nearby wind farm, and the 747 is forced to land due to its avionics having been damaged in the fight. As police swarm the runway, Chris and Ditch are attacked by a parachuting Pinkwater. Chris is stabbed in the back, and Ditch is nearly killed before pulling Pinkwater's back-up chute, sucking him into a nearby turbine and killing him.

Some time later, Ditch and Chris receive official commendations at the Kremlin for their actions in preventing the coup.



The final stunt, which features Sheen at the wheel of a Cadillac Allanté falling to earth, was a mixture of bluescreen and camera work, as a real car was suspended beneath a helicopter and then a reverse zoom made it seem as if it were in free-fall.

Portions of the film were shot in Palm Springs, California.[1] Other filming locations were Alabama Hills (Lone Pine, California); a windfarm near Tehachapi, California; Douglas, Arizona; Flagstaff, Arizona; Little Colorado River Canyon, Arizona; Moscow, Russia; Phoenix, Arizona; San Bernardino, California and Tucson, Arizona, where a cameo appearance by Martha Vasquez of its station KVOA was filmed.[2][3]


The film debuted at No. 2 at the box office behind Timecop.[4] It eventually grossed $16.5 million in the United States and Canada and over $31 million internationally, for a worldwide total of over $47 million compared to its $50 million budget.[5][6]

It received mostly negative reviews by critics; it has a 19% positive scale on the ratings aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 26 reviews.[7] Owen Gleiberman opined that "Terminal Velocity is the kind of movie in which the hero keeps sneaking into rooms to peek into some file and you wait, with glum certitude, for yet another ”surprise” thug to leap out of the shadows. It’s fun to hear Charlie Sheen deliver quips like, 'I’m not just a walking penis — I’m a flying penis!' But for most of the movie, Sheen, lowering his voice to a basso he-man growl, gives a boringly flat, square-jawed performance, as if he thought he were doing Hot Shots! Part Quatre."[8] Roger Ebert suggested that "Sheen's behavior in this and other scenes is so close to the self-parody of his work in the 'Hot Shots!' movies that he almost seems to be telling us something — such as, that he takes the movie with less than perfect seriousness. No wonder. It's based on such a goofy premise that with just a nudge here and a pun there it could easily have become 'Hot Shots Part Cinq' and taken advantage of the franchise. It's not so much that Sheen can keep a straight face in any situation, as that he always seems to be testing himself with the situations he gets himself into."[9]

Year-end lists[edit]


  1. ^ Niemann, Greg (2006). Palm Springs Legends: creation of a desert oasis. San Diego: Sunbelt Publications. pp. 168–171. ISBN 978-0-932653-74-1. OCLC 61211290. (here for Table of Contents)
  2. ^ "Eyewitness News Team". KVOA.com. 1997. Archived from the original on February 21, 1997. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  3. ^ "Filming Locations for Terminal Velocity". IMDb.com. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  4. ^ Strauss, Bob (October 3, 1994). "'Timecop' Puts Brakes On 'Velocity'". Sun Sentinel. Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved November 2, 2010.
  5. ^ "Terminal Velocity". BoxOfficeMojo.com. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  6. ^ Klady, Leonard (February 19, 1996). "B.O. with a vengeance: $9.1 billion worldwide". Variety. p. 1.
  7. ^ "Terminal Velocity (1994)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 22, 2016.
  8. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (October 7, 1994). "Terminal Velocity". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 2, 2010.
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (September 23, 1994). "Terminal Velocity". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved November 2, 2010. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ Elliott, David (December 25, 1994). "On the big screen, color it a satisfying time". The San Diego Union-Tribune (1, 2 ed.). p. E=8.

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