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Review: Budget is not the only thing that’s low in action flick ‘Altitude’

Denise Richards in the movie "Altitude."
(Lionsgate)

The best thing that can be said about director Alex Merkin’s low-budget, high-flying action picture “Altitude” is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Then again, any movie with Denise Richards playing an FBI agent stuck on a plane between feuding master criminals was never going to be a masterpiece — even with a better script and expensive special effects.

Richards’ none-too-convincing Agent Gretchen Blair discovers early in her flight that her seatmate Terry (Kirk Barker) is trying to escape from his partners in crime with a suitcase filled with millions of dollars. When the crew of the jet starts disappearing, she figures out that Terry’s ex-friends (played by Dolph Lundgren and Greer Grammer) are on board, with a plan to get their money back.

“Altitude” doesn’t pack much plot into its short running time; instead Merkin and screenwriter Jesse Mittelstadt pile up jokes about the annoyances of air travel, wedged between clumsily staged shootouts and punch outs.

The cast is game and the pace blessedly zippy, but everything about this film feels too fake to generate any real suspense.

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Granted, it’s not easy to set a thriller on an airplane. Done well, films like “Red Eye” and “Flightplan” combine mystery and melodrama with the sweaty anxiety of being suspended 30,000 feet in the air. “Altitude” is more like watching a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse in a cramped hallway.

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‘Altitude’

Rating: R, for language and some violence

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Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood

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