johnlink ranks IN THE LINE OF FIRE (1993)

I saw this movie probably fifteen years ago. All I remember is a plastic gun and Clint Eastwood losing his breath as he ran along side the Presidential limo. This is a movie I remember being good, so it is nice to get back at it.


I watched IN THE LINE OF FIRE (1993) on 6.9.14. It was my second viewing of the film and first in probably fifteen years.

Clint Eastwood is Frank Horrigan, an aging Secret Service agent who is dedicated to tracking counter-fitters and investigating threats to the President. He used to be assigned to the President, but (fictionally) was one of the guys running alongside JFK’s limo when he was killed.

Present day (well, 1993 present day) and he comes across a man Mitch Leary (John Malkovich) who is openly threatening to kill the current President. Frank calls in some favors and gets put back on detail to help protect the man in charge. He is out of practice, out of breath, and running out of good will. His relationship with Leary turns a bit personal as Leary learns a bit about him and pushes his buttons.

Also getting personal is Frank’s relationship with fellow Secret Service agent Lilly Raines (Rene Russo). She’s a female and this is a 90s movie, so we know they will be sleeping together at some point. This love story is the weakest part of the movie and is abandoned for about forty minutes in the middle of the film, but there must have been legislation passes in the early 1990s to require all films with a male lead to get into bed with the female lead at least once per movie. Other than the love angle, this is a pretty nice script. Eastwood even gets a top ten all time Eastwood line when he gruffly delivers “I’ll be thinking about that when I’m pissing on your grave!”

The best parts of this movie are the pursuit of Mitch, especially in a three person chase on the rooftops. IN THE LINE OF FIRE works very well as a dramatic thriller. The only unfortunate thing about the Mitch/Frank interaction is that so much of it has to happen over the phone and very little takes place face-to-face. The payoff in the moments when they do meet is substantial, but it is disappointing that so much of the acting that these two icons (even if Malkovich was not necessarily an icon at the time) has to be done in an empty room to a phone.

The technology in this movie is wonderful to see over twenty years later. The state-of-the-art computers used to track fingerprints and search databases is the stuff of the simplest programming today. So much of the movie hinges on the inability to trace a series of phone calls. This doesn’t ruin the movie by any means, in fact these same sort of masking techniques are used in basically every episode of the new season of ’24’. This is a movie’s which quaintness may cause it to be a trifle less intense than it was perceived in 1993. Heck, its a movie which uses Eastwood’s disbelief that there could be a female Secret Service agent as a point of humor rather than a point of derision (like would be later done with racism in his GRAN TORINO). This unabashed masculinity is softened as the movie continues, perhaps the best moment occurring when Lillie walks out of the restaurant on Frank and he plays the Casablanca song As Time Goes By.

This is a nice enough thriller. Perhaps it hasn’t aged as well as some others, but it still stands up as a good entry in the Eastwood canon. Malkovich, too, is really good here and is deserving of the Oscar nomination he received for Best Supporting Actor. If this is one you missed, it is worth giving a visit.




FINAL SCORE: 6.75 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on June 11, 2014.

6 Responses to “johnlink ranks IN THE LINE OF FIRE (1993)”

  1. Watched again like a year and a half ago. You’re right. It’s a great thriller. Malkovich is always fun to watch (even if I don’t think he has the largest range as an actor). Eastwood is good, too. Fun side-note, this was the last movie Eastwood starred in where he didn’t direct until Trouble with the Curve 19 years later. Great review!

  2. Malkovich steals this. No doubt about that. Good review John.

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