The Virginian-Pilot
                             THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT 
              Copyright (c) 1996, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: Thursday, March 21, 1996               TAG: 9603210130
TYPE: Movie Review 
                                             LENGTH: Medium:   87 lines


A GRAND, FIERY and explosive finale doesn't make up entirely for the extremely loose logic during most of ``Executive Decision.'' The new action movie is about terrorists taking over a 747 jet and threatening most of the Eastern Seaboard with nerve gas stolen from the Russians.

For moviegoers, the nerve gas might be no more irritating than the film's preposterous plotting.

The most ludicrous scene has Halle Berry, as a flight attendant, feverishly reading from an instruction manual to tell nonpilot Kurt Russell how to land the plane. Giving up, she throws the directions away and simply urges him to ``just fly the plane.''

Produced by Joel Silver, the specialist in big explosions, ``Executive Decision'' demands that we take it seriously. A little humor would have helped.

At the outset, you might expect something like the old ``Airport'' movies - airplanes in peril. Those films may have been cornball, and finally played out because of repetition, but they had a knack for having big-scale action fun with the peril. ``Executive Decision'' plays around with no less than destruction of half the United States but still manages to not work up much of a lather.

Russell, wearing as much makeup as leading lady Berry, plays a think-tank specialist in Arab terrorism who is torn away from a Washington, D.C., party to comment on a hijacking. Among the movie's many questionable ``details'' is the fact that he goes half way round the world but never has time to change his tuxedo from the party.

David Suchet is the mad Arab terrorist who has taken over a 747 en route from Athens to Washington. He wants millions in gold plus the freedom of his leader or he'll blow up the plane, killing the 400 passengers on board.

The passengers, incidentally, seem remarkably calm about the whole thing. They sit about as if they were mutants during most of the movie. They don't complain or yell about anything.

Adding a kind of 007 gadgetry to the procedure, an experimental plane is used to sneak a group of commandos into the underbelly of the airliner. Russell, who plays a bespectacled nonaction type, makes the transfer, but Steven Seagal, mercifully, doesn't. That leaves Seagal with only a few whispers and grimaces during the entire movie. His is little more than a bit part.

Laughably, two ultra-macho members of the rescue team are most famous for their feminine-dress roles in other movies - B.D. Wong, who won a Tony for the title role in ``M. Butterfly,'' and John Leguizamo, who was last seen in high heels in ``To Wong Foo . . . ''

The most laughable bit part is Marla Maples Trump, trying to earn a few extra bucks by playing a flight attendant who cries most of the time. She's in the background.

There is a lot of crawling around and talking in the lower depths of the aircraft as the good guys try to defuse the bomb while installing lots of technical gadgets.

The executive decision of the title is de-emphasized because the president is out of the country. The real trauma is whether to blow the plane up and kill all the passengers rather than let it get near Washington. The terrorists hope that the Americans don't really know that the real goal is to hit the capital with nerve gas.

Technically, the movie is visually impressive - particularly the aerial scenes, which feature Navy pilots from Hampton Roads. Flying real planes, with real precision, they add a note of levity to the almost sci-fi look of some plot twists.

Still, the finale is a knockout - noisy and fierce. Too bad it takes so much talk, and so much illogic, to get there. ILLUSTRATION: MOVIE REVIEW

``Executive Decision''

Cast: Kurt Russell, Steven Seagal, Halle Berry, John Leguzamo,

Joe Morton, Oliver Platt, David Suchet, Marla Maples Trump, B.D.


Director: Stuart Baird

Screenplay: Jim Thomas and John Thomas

Music: Jerry Goldsmith

MPAA rating: R (some violence, but not dwelling on gore; brief


Mal's rating: **1/2

Locations: Cinemark, Greenbrier in Chesapeake; Janaf, Main Gate

in Norfolk; Kemps River, Lynnhaven 8, Pembroke, Surf-N-Sand in

Virginia Beach

by CNB