In the Line of Fire Movie Review

Clint Eastwood was a legend a long time before Wolfgang Petersen decided to cast him as an aging Secret Service agent trying to derail a psychopath who's trying to assassinate the President. But Petersen's movie, titled In the Line of Fire, benefits immensely from his history and his presence, his ironclad persona as last man standing. Sporting a well-cut suit jacket rather than a poncho and a pair of holsters, Eastwood's steely resolve still has the power to rejuvenate otherwise rote plot conventions with every sliver of his gravelly voice, as if questioning his opponents' manhood with every flick of an adverb.

Eastwood plays Frank Horrigan, the kind of man who comes home after a long day of booby-trapping money counterfeiters and wants nothing else than to get out of his suit, drink a good glass of bourbon, and listen to Kind of Blue. Just as he's settling into one of these comfortable slumps, he receives a phone call from a man who calls himself Booth (John Malkovich). Sober and staid, Booth tells Frank that he's going to kill the president. The fact that Booth's deserted apartment is found with a singular photo of Frank when he was an agent under JFK underlines Horrigan's conviction.

Petersen is playing cat-and-mouse, but he's doing so on a grand scale. It's Dirty Harry goes to Washington. Scribe Jeff Maguire saddles the film with a light romance between Horrigan and a hot-to-trot female agent, ably played by Rene Russo, plus a bureaucratic maelstrom cooked up by a presidential advisor (Fred Dalton Thomas) and the postulant agent-in-charge for the Secret Service (Gary Cole). The wolf-and-cub play between Frank and his young partner (Dylan McDermott) comes off as custard: cute enough but ultimately benign.

No matter the distractions and sleight of hand, the fireworks are all Eastwood and Malkovich. Whereas Eastwood is all accountable, hard-assed efficiency, Malkovich is a study in brooding frenzy. It takes Horrigan a while to pinpoint Booth's soft spots, but the villain has the agent's number from the get-go and has a devil of a time spinning him. It's a devil of a time to watch as well. When Frank does finally break Booth's calm seal, there's an outburst, but we see nothing of it again until the visceral, if not preposterous, ending. The consistent professional, Malkovich segues back into cool menace without a moment of hesitation.

Petersen's commendable pacing throws down the gauntlet and Malkovich and Eastwood savor the thrusts and parries, perhaps even a little too much. Nothing else in the picture has the hope of standing up to these throttling psychological battles, all the more impressive since they are mostly done on the phone. The aged friendship between Horrigan and the Director of the Secret Service (John Mahoney) has a conversant strum to it, but soon enough, it becomes a simple procedure vs. experience argument between two ragged old-timers. That's the point: Petersen wants us to think that Frank has a life beyond topping Booth and tries to prove it with these slight moments of placid social life, but nobody else matters. Frank and Booth were made for each other.

Cast & Crew

Producer :

Comments

In the Line of Fire Rating

" OK "

Rating: R, 1993

Advertisement

More Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood: "Eli Wallach Was A Wonderful Guy and Actor"

Clint Eastwood has led the tributes to the late actor Eli Wallach - his co-star in the classic 1966 movie The Good, the Bad and...

'Think Like A Man Too' Set To Overtake '22 Jump Street' In Weekend Box Office?

Think Like A Man Too looks set to knock 22 Jump Street off the top of the US Weekend Box Office. The comedy, starring Kevin...

'Jersey Boys' Continues Flow From Stage to Screen

Movie producers are again turning to Broadway for source material for blockbusters, thanks to the mega-success of film adaptations like Mamma Mia and Les Miserables....

Clint Eastwood Opens Up On His Cameo in Jersey Boys

Clint Eastwood wasn’t perhaps the first name on everybodys' lips when the Jersey Boys movie adaptation was in its early stages, but the vetern actor-turned-director...

Advertisement

Jersey Boys Movie Review

Music-lover Clint Eastwood adapts the long-running stage musical for the big screen with mixed results: it recounts a terrific true story but has an uneven...

Eastwood's 'Jersey Boys' Is Fun But Fails To Upstage Broadway

On the eve of the premiere of Clint Eastwood's movie adaptation of the Broadway hot musical, Jersey Boys, we thought we'd do a little snooping...

Clint Eastwood Doesn't Care Much For The Music of The Four Seasons

Despite having taken 'The Jersey Boys' from Broadway to the big screen, Clint Eastwood has admitted that he doesn’t really enjoy the music of Frankie...

Clint Eastwood Almost Hits The Right Notes with ‘Jersey Boys’. Almost.

Jersey Boys, Clint Eastwood’s big screen version of the Tony Award winning musical, is among the new cinematic releases this weekend and the critics appear...

Advertisement