Movie Review By Heather Clisby
Directed by Mike Newell, "Pushing Tin" is supposed to be about the intense rivalry of two air traffic controllers. How this is supposed to be interesting to the rest of us, I'm not sure.
John Cusack, a favorite of mine, is usually some form of cowboy - usually a cute, tall one with biting wit and loner tendencies. This time, he's just Nick Falzone, a macho, insecure twit with a God complex that cheats on his wife. Nick is threatened by the new gunslinger-er, I mean, air traffic controller whose legendary reputation precedes him, particularly his fondness for hanging out below descending 747s.
The new man in black is Russell Bell, the quiet, sexy, dangerous type that women adore and men regard. Billy Bob Thorton plays this part with almost no effort at all. He feels like a man who has made so many mistakes in his life that he rarely speaks but when he does, it's usually cryptic and profound. This, naturally, drives Nick crazy.
The wives, however, are far more interesting. The incredible Cate Blanchett is Nick's wife, Connie, and knowing that she's just come from playing the title role in "Elizabeth", it makes her complete transformation into a New Jersey housewife just that much more astonishing. Obviously, she took both roles equally seriously; Connie is fully inhabited right down to her nail salon French tips. Blanchett is the anchor of a film that's supposed to be about men. Bo-ring.
Rounding out the lust quad is Russell's wife, Mary Bell, played by my favorite sexpot-with-a-brain, Angelina Jolie. She's dark and tortured like her mysterious husband but she's about 20 years younger and tempting as hell. She looks like an upgrade of Elvira, drinks like a fish and weeps over dead plants. Man & wife wear a lot of turquoise jewelry and it looks mighty nice.
There is the usual Hollywood build-up of playful tension that leads to camaraderie and enlightenment but there is a lot of empty searching in between. Oh yes, and a bomb threat - gotta have that tense countdown scene!
The only real tragedy here is that the pressure of being an air traffic controller is just a vague backdrop to a flimsy story; it could just as well be about baseball players or taxi drivers. The script applies some gallows humor but otherwise, only plays feetsies with the concept of being responsible for the lives of hundreds of people every single day, even if they are just blips on the screen. This was a great opportunity wasted, especially in an age where video games are being examined and their effects on reality debated. Shame, shame, shame.
© 1999 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 4/28/99
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