John Malkovich plays one of those movie bad guys who can look at the screen at creep the viewers out. Mitch Leary is one of his best villain characters, willing to put his mouth on the barrel of a gun pointed at him to make his point.
It takes a while to get there, the latter a scene in which aging Secret Service Agent Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood) is hanging off a roof, supported only by Leary’s arms. The tension in that sequence is impossible to calculate, able to boil over the pressure building from earlier scenes without losing any momentum going into the third act.
In the Line of Fire blends real world events and fiction to create a convincing environment for its story. Horrigan, nearly disgraced and feeling responsible for not stopping the Kennedy assassination, is brought back to active Presidential guard after Leary begins a series of phone calls.
Mind games here are brilliantly directed and performed. Both Horrigan and Leary are on edge, snapping at each other as the games become increasingly personal in what becomes the film’s best sequence.
Shaky composite effects do not detract from a string of Presidential campaign visits, taking Horrigan to a number of locales. The various spots wear the character down, his age adding an additional sense of tension, and the sequences become a purposeful means to show the stress of the job. Likewise, a budding romance with Lilly Raines (Rene Russo) serves to further the character development, not create a cheap emotional pull at the end of the film.
Despite the contrived death at the end of the film, Line of Fire is an expertly crafted thriller, one that doesn’t need excessive action to work, just tension. Most importantly, it carries an authentic feel, and rarely is it forced or overdone.
Transfers like this are a shame. Sony delivers a sharp AVC encode, one with great black levels and contrast. Sadly, the entire thing looks artificial thanks to a layer of DNR. Detail is sporadic and rare. Colors suffer from fading problems, undoubtedly additionally so thanks to the attempt at grain wiping.
The source looks wonderful, with no noticeable specks or dirt, and that’s fine. Unfortunately, the cost for this clarity is too great. Faces are a mess of unnatural smoothing, and ghosting is evident during quick pans. This is not the worst DNR application out there, but it is still evident.
A TrueHD track is surprisingly robust despite the lack of action scenes. Presidential motorcade scenes are lively, with large crowds cheering in all channels and vehicles accurately moving through the sound field. Car engines and various high school bands bring some low-end work, wonderful in its clarity and crispness. This is an immersive mix, even if it won’t jump out and surprise you.
Director Wolfgang Peterson delivers a solo commentary, followed by a making of entitled Ultimate Sacrifice. The latter is generic and dated, but still provides the necessary information. A Showtime special on the Secret Service, which liberally borrowed clips from the film, is a decent if brief look at the people behind the protection of the President.
Two featurettes, one on the now dated visual effects and the (also dated) second on counterfeit money, run around 10 minutes combined. Five deleted scenes are in rough shape during their five-minute runtime. BD-Live support is generic.