In The Line Of Fire (1993) – Wolfgang Petersen

 

The 101 Action Movies brings a welcome Clint Eastwood thriller to the list with this tautly paced, and well-executed actioner.

Eastwood plays Frank Horrigan, a living legend, the only remaining serving Secret Service agent who was in Dealey plaza on that fateful November day. He begins a cat and mouse game with Mitch Leary (a terrifying portrayal by John Malkovich) a former government employee who was trained by the government to kill, while Horrigan was sworn to protect.

Suffering from severe psychosis, Leary is intent on killing the president as revenge for his perceived betrayal. He deems Horrigan a worthy adversary though, and the two of them start hunting one another across the country as a presidential fundraiser looms closer.

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There are few people who think Horrigan still has what it takes to serve on the president’s personal detail, but Frank, guilt-ridden over losing one president, insists on taking Leary and the assignment on.

Malkovich and Eastwood are perfectly matched to square off against one another, and are also surrounded by a top-notch cast including Rene Russo, Dylan McDermott, Gary Cole, and John Mahoney.

It’s a smart, well-thought out film, that relies on actual Secret Service procedures. It’s tightly edited, and Eastwood is in top-form, but then again you’d have to be to go up against Malkovich.

There are some stand-out sequences, including a roof-top chase, where Horrigan has the opportunity to end everything, but Leary wonders aloud if he really is brave enough to give his life for the president. And the shot of Eastwood hanging over the edge of the building , and Malkovich rising up before him, chilling. Not to mention how ready Leary seems to be for death!

In the Line of Fire (1993)

While Eastwood fills his performance with nuances of grief, regret, and more than a healthy dose of cynicism, Malkovich’s Leary is cold, calculating, brutal and murderous, taking lives with no remorse, out thinking his pursuers, but giving them just enough to keep them in the game.

I’m not sure what I liked better, watching the two of them pursue one another physically, or they way they duel and taunt on the phonecalls, each one getting under the other’s skin, until the final confrontation is the only conclusion that could have been possible.

Rene Russo as Lily Raines, brings a nice balance to Horrigan’s life, as a romantic relationship begins to develop between the two of them, it’s actually really nice to watch, despite the fact that Horrigan seems a little opinionated about things…

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I quite like this film, and it’s fitted out with a perfectly complementing score by Ennio Morricone.

Everything about the film feels authentic, the only things that don’t actually seem to work as well as they could is the young Eastwood cut into footage and photos of Kennedy, but they last only a few moments on the screen, and definitely are not enough to jar you from the film.

If you haven’t seen this one, it’s time to check it out, and if you have seen it…

What did you think of it?

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