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   IN THE LINE OF FIRE (1993) 

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CAST
Clint Eastwood
John Malkovich
Rene Russo
Dylan McDermott
Gary Cole
John Mahoney
Gregory Alan Williams
Fred Thompson
Jim Curley
Sally Hughes
Clyde Kusatsu
Steve Hytner
Tobin Bell

DIRECTED BY
Wolfgang Petersen

PURCHASE


DVD




Time: 128 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Action/Drama

Academy Award nominations for Best Film Editing, Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay.


When I originally saw this movie in the theater, I remember being very impressed and thrilled that Malkovich got so much attention. After watching it again recently, I have to say that maybe it was my crush on Dylan McDermott that was clouding my judgement. Not that IN THE LINE OF FIRE isn't a well-acted, decently-plotted thriller, it's just a little more over-the-top than I recall. The acting a bit more strident and scene-chewing, the love story completely hokey. Though not even 10 years old, it has a somewhat dated feel to it, which I also didn't expect. However, Eastwood and Malkovich make this more than watchable as they play their cat-and-mouse game. You couldn't get two more diverse acting styles on screen at the same time and yet they only make each other better. This is Peterson's first major US release and I still think it's his best. The plot is intricate, believable and exciting, unlike AIRFORCE ONE, which is exciting yet silly, and THE PERFECT STORM, which has none to speak of. This film also allows Eastwood to show a bit of his soft side, to be vulnerable, which is a welcome change to his bad ass reputation. I never realized before this movie that he could do more than scowl.

The film opens with undercover Secret Service agents Frank Corrigan (Eastwood) and his new partner Al (McDermott) working a bust. Things get a little hairy and Al almost loses his life. Frank comforts him the best he can, but Al is quite shaken up and starts to doubt whether he can do the job. Soon after they are called by a local landlady who discovered something disturbing in one of her tenants apartments. What they find is a wall plastered with images of the Kennedy assasination, as well as other newspaper articles about the current president. They see stuff like this all the time, so they don't think anything of it. When they return the next day to talk to the tenant, everything is gone, except for one photo of the Kennedy motorcade with the image of one of the secret serviceman circled. The picture is of a young Frank. Al is stunned to learn that he was on duty that day. Frank tries to downplay the significance. It's a day that's weighed on him for 30 years. He often wonders if he could have done more.


Leary: "Do you have what it takes to take a bullet or is life too precious?"

Frank: "Well, I'll be thinkin' about that when I'm pissin' on your grave."


Which is exactly the same question Mitch Leary (Malkovich) asks Frank. You see, Mitch is going to kill the current president and he wants to share his ideas with the one man still on active service who lived through an assassination. Frank isn't exactly one of the more popular agents on duty and it takes a lot of string pulling to get him back on personal watch. Lilly Raines (Russo) is willing to give him a chance, even though he's not in the best of shape physically or mentally. Leary is pushing Frank's buttons and Frank is beginning to show the strain of his past actions. Little by little they begin to close in on Leary, but it's not easy. He's a smart bastard more than capable of pulling of his dream of becoming infamous. The higher ups, including the President, think Frank is overreacting, letting his emotions cloud his judgement. Lilly tries to save his reputation and keep him in the action, but his mistakes are causing too much embarrassment and the president can't afford to look foolish while campaigning for re-election. Though he appears gruff on the outside, Lilly begins to learn there's more than meets the eye when it comes to Frank and begins to fall for him (a useless subplot, but one that gives the film much of its humor). As they close in on Leary, tragedy befalls the agents, making Frank even more determined to bring Leary down. He won't fail this time. In the end, Frank figures out exactly where Leary will be and puts his life on the line for the President. The cat and mouse game comes to its inevitable conclusion, but not before Leary gets a chance to spout his peace and Frank becomes able to forgive himself for his past.

As political thrillers go, IN THE LINE OF FIRE is definitely in the upper echelon. It's a taught, suspenseful film with some great characters and an interesting storyline. I don't particularly care for the love story angle – I think they should be more worried about their jobs – but it helps show different sides of these characters and gives the picture some breathing room in between all the tense moments. This film definitely showcases one of Eastwood's more well-rounded performance, at least of the films I've seen him in. I don't remember Malkovich chewing as much scenery as he does, but he always makes for a good psycho and this part gives him a lot of room to showcase his rage. It could use a little more subtlety, but you can't have everything. Rene Russo does a good job with what she's given, but she's much better in TIN CUP and THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR, which give her real characters she can sink her teeth into. Here she's just the requisite chick, even though she is an intelligent one. Since a great deal of the film has our two leads speaking to each other over the phone, the pacing seems a bit slow in some parts. The film could've been about 10 minutes shorter without losing any of its appeal.

Not being a big Eastwood fan, I have to say that this is one of my favorites of his films. Mainly, because he's got good actors to bounce off of and a story that allows him to expand on his regular forte. Getting tired of seeing him play piano in his movies though. He's obviously very good at it, but I find it a little self-indulgent. Also somewhat tired of seeing movies about the Kennedy assassination, but this one manages to focus on a fairly untapped aspect, so it wasn't horribly boring to sit through. The actual ending is slightly absurd, but no worse than most other thrillers being made these days. It's more subtle than most and that's something to be thankful I guess. If you're looking for an intelligent, exciting, well-made film, you could do much worse...even if you don't like Clint.



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