In the Line of Fire – Geometry week

This is Geometry week. Yesterday was the lowly Point – today we will connect two of those to make a line. In the Line of Fire is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: In the Line of Fire (1993) – Rated R for adult content, graphic language and violence.

In this triple-Oscar-nominated thriller, director Wolfgang Peterson sets in motion a deadly mind game: A twisted yet ingenious killer (John Malkovich) torments and teases a veteran Secret Service agent (Clint Eastwood) who is haunted by his failure years ago to save JFK. Unable to make the current president take the psychos assassination threats seriously, the agent and his partner (Rene Russo) pursue him on their own, walking into a trap.

“John F. Kennedy said all someone needs is a willingness to trade his life for the Presidents”

Wolfgang Petersen does a great job of directing here. After the classic Das Boot, he came to Hollywood and directed several very intelligent thrillers (this, Outbreak, and Air Force One). Unfortunately he has misfired lately with Troy and Poseidon, two films that should have been so much better than they were.

In the Line of Fire begins with the requisite action scene before becoming an intelligent tense cat and mouse thriller. The opening scene also serves to point out the other main job of the Secret Service – that of protecting U.S. currency.

The screenplay written by Jeff Maguire was nominated for an Oscar. It lost to The Piano by Jane Campion.

I really like that as Clint Eastwood ages, his tough guy characters age as well. His Secret Service agent Horrigan almost has a heart attack on POTUS duty.

Of course Clint would not be Clint if he were not going after someone young enough to be his daughter (sometimes granddaughter). Here the love interest is Secret Service agent Lilly Raines played by Rene Russo. They share a hilarious hotel scene where they shed their equipment.

They give Clint a partner here. Dylan McDermott is Secret Service agent Al D’Andrea but he is more window dressing / plot development than anything else. As with any good cat-and-mouse thriller, the focus is squarely on the protagonist and antagonist.

John Malkovich is excellent here as “Booth”, the would-be assassin. Petersen delights in giving him many different looks. He was nominated for a Best Supporting Oscar for this role. He lost to Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive.

The third Oscar nomination that this film got was for Best Film Editing. Anne V. Coates lost to Michael Kahn for Schindlers List.

While not the best of Petersen’s American thrillers (that honor goes to Air Force One), this is a really good one. I have no reservation recommending it.

People Watch: Look for a pre-Saw Tobin Bell in the opening scene and an uncredited Steve Railsback as CIA Agent David Coppinger.

Con Air – Do Not Get on That Plane week

This is Do Not Get on That Plane week. Con Air is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Con Air (1997) – Rated R for strong violence and language.

“When the government puts all its rotten criminal eggs in one airborne basket, it is asking for trouble. Before you can say, “Pass the barf bag,” the crooks control the plane, led by creepy Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (John Malkovich). Watching his every move is the just-released Nicolas Cage, who would rather reunite with his family. The action climaxes with an incredible crash sequence in Las Vegas.”

“Make a move and the bunny gets it!”

“What if I told you insane was working fifty hours a week in some office for fifty years at the end of which they tell you to piss off; ending up in some retirement village hoping to die before suffering the indignity of trying to make it to the toilet on time? Wouldnt you consider that to be insane”

Okay recommending this movie I realize that I should have a category for Guilty Pleasure. For everything it gets right, it gets something wrong.

This is the first film directed by Simon West. None of his other films so far have been any good (Tomb Raider? The Generals Daughter?) and yet this one is chock full of great action and sort of great performances (more on that later).

We are not even five minutes into the movie when Cameron (Nicolas Cage) is attacked by three thugs who threaten his wife, deface his uniform, and beat him. Clearly they deserve the smackdown. Of course Cameron, a former Army Ranger, allows them to surround him in a rainy parking lot and begin beating him down without initially fighting back which seems quite odd.

The action is fun and pretty much non-stop. The acting is the real reason to watch this movie. They got a great cast and Simon West appears to have told each of them that they should go flat out with their acting. The actors do not seem to interact so much as they try to outdo each other.

Nicolas Cage overacts his heart out. His performance will leave you cringing at times but it does give him a certain charisma. They also take plenty of opportunities to show off his pecs and abs. Even his hair is given plenty of screen time and real estate.

Our other hero is a sandal-wearing U.S. Marshal, Vince Larkin. He is played by John Cusack who is clearly having a lot of fun here. He continually twits rival DEA agent Duncan Malloy played by Colm Meaney (Chief OBrien on Star Trek TNG/DS9 – his keychain has a Star Trek ornament on it).

We know that Malloy is not a hero because the first thing he does is arrive in a very expensive sports car and park in the handicap spot.

Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs was such a part of the cultural zeitgeist by this point that they base not one but two of the felons on his character (Cyrus and Garland).

Cyrus is our main villain and is overplayed to perfection by a scenery-chewing John Malkovich. He is riveting and stands out above the other overactors. His number two is Ving Rhames as Diamond Dog.

Even the minor villains are all chosen for their flamboyance. Comedian Dave Chappelle plays Pinball (humorously of course). The excellent character actor Danny Trejo plays rapist Johnny 23. M.C. Gainey plays white trash Swamp Thing.

Strangely the only actor in the whole movie who seems restrained (and that is only in comparison to the other actors) is Steve Buscemi who gives a delightful performance as Garland Greene.

The actresses are actually restrained (literally in one case). Rachel Ticotin plays a guard and Monica Potter is the love interest, patiently waiting for Cameron to come home. Neither is given much to do – perhaps because they did not overact?

The action is fabulous and almost as over-the-top as the acting. Almost every airplane trope is covered here – emergency takeoff, crash landing, fight in flight, body falling from airplane, landing gear stuck, etc.

I have to say a few words, but only a few, about the plot. The plot is utterly ridiculous – any description of it reveals plenty of plotholes. The dialogue is alternately wonderful and cringe-inducing. The film steals liberally from Flight of the Phoenix, Silence of the Lambs, and others but definitely has its own sense of identity.

I did like that almost the entire movie takes place on Bastille Day.

Con Air was actually nominated for two Academy Awards. Diane Warren was nominated for best song for “How Do I Live”. Con Air was also nominated for Best Sound. Unfortunately it ran into the juggernaut that was Titanic.

I cannot in good conscience call this a good film but I do recommend it because it is a huge amount of fun.

People watch: Powers Boothe does an initial voice-over showing love for the Rangers.