Want to watch Gerard Butler crash-land a plane and battle crazed guerrillas?

Gerard Butler takes to the jungle in Plane - Kenneth Rexach
Gerard Butler takes to the jungle in Plane - Kenneth Rexach

All hail Gerard Butler’s latest shovel-brained frolic: Plane by name and extremely plain by nature. No teasing postmodern flavours of pastiche, self-referentiality or archness here, oh no. Instead, the gruff Scottish action star has returned with the most unapologetically basic hour and three quarters of entertainment in recent history – the cinematic equivalent of chicken in a basket.

There’s lots to enjoy in this aviation disaster thriller slash tropical shoot-em-up, with its uproariously blunt title high on the list. Butler has spent much of the press tour for Plane talking up the thing's blistering nomenclative efficiency, comparing it to the great Hollywood one-word sales pitches like Alien, Commando and Speed. But there’s simplicity and then there’s full-on caveman speak, and frankly ‘Plane’ feels less like a feat of minimalist marketing than just something the film expects its audience to grunt while pointing at the screen.

Your mileage may vary, but in my case it came close to achieving this, while eliciting an impressive number of involuntary oofs and puffs. Butler plays Brodie Torrance, a former RAF man turned pilot at Trailblazer Airlines, whose New Year’s Eve flight from Singapore to Tokyo goes about as wrong as it conceivably could.

After a jobsworth instructs Brodie to fly directly through a storm to save on fuel, his aircraft is struck by lightning and crashes in the southern Philippines, where his passengers are promptly abducted by gun-crazed guerrillas. With help from Mike Colter’s Louis Gaspare, a beefy veteran of the French Foreign Legion who was being extradited on a homicide charge, it naturally falls to Brodie to retrieve them.

Director Jean-François Richet gets on admirably with the task at hand: disaster ensues mere minutes after our hero promises his teenage daughter via FaceTime that he’ll be home in time for haggis, neeps and tatties. (Brodie’s improbable Paisley via Los Angeles accent will be familiar to Butler enthusiasts.)

The crash itself is excitingly staged, with the scene unfolding almost entirely within the plane’s cockpit and cabin, giving it a rough-and-tumble quality enhanced by the general lack of obvious CG. In fact, one single-take fist fight aside, Plane plays things resolutely old school, from the electronic score zee-yowing away in the background to the script’s pub quiz sprinklings of pilot jargon (aircraft over water are said to have their “feet wet”, for instance), and above all the cartoonish brutality of its violent set-pieces.

Villains are dispatched with sledgehammers and knives, and later with a gun so powerful its victims look like Donald Duck being yanked off stage by a vaudeville hook. In the end, the silliest escape plan imaginable turns out to be the one Butler plumps for, and it plays out at such a clip the credits are rolling before he even gets his haggis.

15 cert, 107 mins. In cinemas from Friday