Reviewed by: Brett Willis
|Featuring:||Clint Eastwood, John Malkovich, Rene Russo, Dylan McDermott, Gary Cole, Fred Dalton Thompson|
Despite some farfetched “just-in-time” coincidences, this film is among the best in the cat-and-mouse-game Action category.
Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood) is the only active agent who ever lost a President (he was in JFK’s Dallas motorcade and failed to react quickly to the first shot). Now there’s a rogue CIA assassin (John Malkovich) threatening to kill the current President and taunting Horrigan with phone calls, questioning whether Horrigan has the dedication to “take a bullet.” The President, trailing in the polls during his re-election campaign, can’t afford to cancel his speaking schedule; so Horrigan and fellow agent Lilly Raines (Rene Russo) must outsmart the assassin in the field, before he strikes.
The President’s character is not developed, because the film is about the duty of the Secret Service to protect anyone they’re assigned to. Agents on the President’s detail refer to him simply as “traveller.” The great thoroughness of preparation for anywhere the President goes is interesting to watch, and the commitment of agents to sacrificing themselves if necessary is a positive content element. All the leads and several character actors turn in excellent performances. Fred Thompson (“The Hunt for Red October”, “Die Hard 2”), as the White House Chief of Staff, exudes his usual authoritarian presence (a trait that probably helped elect him to the U.S. Senate in 1994). The computer-altered film (of a young Eastwood with President Kennedy; and of outdoor rallies from President Clinton’s 1992 campaign, with the candidate digitally altered, Eastwood spliced in and the billboard messages changed) is a credible special-effects job.
Profanity is extreme. Sexual content is basically limited to agent Horrigan chasing after agent Raines; there’s one scene where she gives in and they get partially undressed (no nudity), but are interrupted by a call to duty. Other than a throwaway opening scene that establishes Eastwood’s character as being of the “Dirty Harry” variety, the violence (which includes several killings) is integral to the plot, although it could have been less graphic. It’s not clear whether Malkovich is a psycho who intends to kill the President just for fun and notoriety, or a government-brainwashed killer who wants revenge on the system that made him into what he is; possibly he’s a little of both. For a first-time viewer who takes the plot seriously, the suspense will be nail-biting.
Although this is a formula film with a good guy who’s not all good and a bad guy who’s really bad, there’s some value in its reminder that Secret Service agents, like people in military service, are ordinary people who must be ready at any moment to do some extraordinary things including laying down their lives.