Pushing Tin

Pushing Tin

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

What purports to be an insight into the macho world of air traffic controllers is, in fact, an arm wrestle between John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton. It's a boy's movie, with a brace of beautiful birds thrown in as bait.

The energy count is high, the stress levels kept in check with treble doses of bullish banter. These guys work hard and play hard. Marriages tend to crack before they do.

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Written by Glen and Les Charles, veterans of long-running TV sitcoms (M*A*S*H, Taxi, Cheers), the emphasis is on male bonding and one-liners. Glanced at a flip, the synopsis reads like stags rutting, not planes landing.

Nick Falzone (Cusack) is on top of his job. He keeps those jumbos in line with a whipcrack delivery. "They'll have to make planes go faster to keep me interested," he quips. When Red Indian halfcaste - the other half is Irish - Russell Bell (Thornton) arrives from Colorado, things change. He doesn't fit into the close-knit camaraderie of the control room. A recovering alcohoic with an adrenalin habit and Zen overtones, he emanates a desert vibe that is alien to these frenetic New Yorkers. Also, he has a young wife, Mary (Angelina Jolie), who knocks back the vodka like there's no tomorrow and has the sex appeal of a tranquilised tigress The antagonism - an attraction of opposites - between Nick and Russell involves their women and competetive games. Nick's wife (Cate Blanchett) finds Russell "interesting". Nick finds Mary irresistable. Wow! Sparks in the bedroom.

What keeps the film one step away from Slush City is the crackling dialogue and the performances. Cusack has been waiting for this role, since Gross Pointe Blank. He knows what to do with it. Russell is an absurd, romantic character, with all the usual accessories - motor bike, black leather jacket, killer singing voice. After playing a series of mental defectives (Sling Blade, A Simple Plan), Thornton revels in it. Blanchett, in her first Hollywood picture, uses her intelligence to create a proper wife, with genuine needs, but is wasted. Jolie, Jon Voight's daughter, has a hard time not burning Mary's cover with steamy sensuality. As for the planes, they land safely. What planes?

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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A feud sparks up between air traffic controllers.
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Director: Mike Newell

Writer: Glen Charles based on the article by Darcy Frey

Starring: John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, Jake Weber, Kurt Fuller

Year: 1999

Runtime: 123 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: USA

Festivals:

EIFF 1999

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