This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative
In the Line of Fire is a fun thriller with a good amount of action in it. It’s not going to have a ton of fight scenes but the action is more about the chase scenes and the characters trying to stay one step ahead of the other. It’s a really solid back and forth and while the film has an exceptionally weak romance, the rest of the film manages to stay strong from start to finish. It’s a very consistent watch.
The movie starts off with Frank solving another case/beating the bad guy as he betrays the villains he was spying on and saves his partner. It should be time to relax now but then he is called in on what would usually be a routine inspection but it becomes much more than that. There’s a guy who calls himself Booth that is planning on taking down the president. It won’t be easy to take him down of course but this guy has such a confident air about him that Frank knows he is serious. After all, Frank knows people well and he was also the guy around when JFK got bumped off. He can’t let this happen a second time. If it comes down to it, will he be able to jump in front of the bullet?
Especially back then it feels like it was probably really easy to try and take a shot. I remember an old saying about how if someone is ready to trade lives to destroy the other person then it is almost impossible to stop him. At that point there are few security measures which can rule that out. It’s why suicide bombings are so hard to stop as well. This guy is clearly obsessed but it’s difficult for Frank to get that across to the execs. One reason is because the President is losing the battle right now and re-election is very close at hand. If he misses out on his appearances then he could lose everything.
There’s also the fact that they get a lot of threats to the president all the time and so it’s hard for most of them to believe that this is anything different. This was back in the days where you could call the FBI and ask for an agent by name. It was just a different time so even the guy having Frank’s number doesn’t put as much fear into them as you would expect. That said, you like to think they would do a little better at following up on the guy once they see him in person on multiple occasions. By that point he is an actual danger because he apparently has the means to follow the president anywhere. Also shows that he has a lot of money.
Their interactions are always fun. Booth likes to say that he and Frank are friends while Frank naturally says that he is crazy and tries to get to him. You can definitely tell that Booth is insane and none of his points hold up at all but since there’s no way to get to him, you can see how Frank is frustrated by the whole thing. Frank’s also a lot older at this point so he has a tough time being on the field and moving around a lot. This just isn’t his game anymore but he has to get back into it because nobody else will take this seriously. Also, Booth has specifically picked Frank as his opponent and might not play ball with anyone else.
In a way Booth’s like the Riddler. He keeps giving Frank clues so that he can “stay in the game” since Booth wants this to be a fair fight. He very easily could have said nothing and would have assassinated the President with ease. Sometimes you can use a villain’s insanity against them and that’s what paid off for Frank here. Booth was a strong opponent but he laid the seeds to his own demise.
As for Frank, he really gets to ask himself just how tough he is. Can he make the tough calls when it counts? Everyone knows Frank can shoot someone as needed but actually taking the bullet is the big question. Frank’s partner deserves a lot of credit in that arena as he’s willing to risk his life for Frank on several occasions. I thought the partner was the best character in the whole film to be honest.
For Frank, he’s a solid lead but he’s the kind of guy who likes to joke around and be rude to hide his feelings. So he tends to pick on Lilly quite a lot even though he likes her. So…it’s almost like school yard flirting where you’re mean to the person you like. The romance here is awful though as he’s just way too old and the whole thing is so cliched. She even mentions how this can’t possibly work but the whole time you know that it will. That’s probably the worst part because by all accounts she should be right. How can this possibly work? It makes no sense when you think about it and the whole thing is super rushed.
It hurts her character a bit too since you know that she will ultimately break down after saying no the whole time. As an agent she does well and at least takes everything seriously. The romance was just so out of place though. As a whole the writing was good. I thought the adventure was planned out well and there was never a dull moment. The script may not have been amazing as it seemed like the channel may have had to edit it a bit or it could just be poor sound mixing on the movie’s part. Either way I would expect Frank to talk like this since it definitely fits his character type.
Overall, In the Line of Fire is a solid film. The movie makes good use of how old Frank is to show that he’s not going to win this on brawns alone. He has to really use his wits to track Booth down and he’s playing catch up for most of the film. There’s one moment where someone is bumped off and the heroes don’t find out about it for an extremely long amount of time. It takes so long that you almost forget about this moment which shows what kind of a lead Booth had. The film gets points for not bumping off the dog also. When Booth looked at the picture of a dog in someone’s office I got worried, but the movie doesn’t go there. So if you want a solid thriller about an agent going up against an assassin in a battle of wits then this is the title for you.