It’s been a while since I’ve written about a movie and I apologize for that, but I just wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t tell you all about the latest movie I watched. It all started because of my unexplainable fondness for John Travolta. I don’t know why I have a soft spot for that guy. Maybe it’s his brilliant acting in the John Woo masterpieces, Broken Arrow (1996) and Face/Off (1997), or maybe it’s the fact that despite having very little acting talent or range, he’s managed to ride his charisma to a solid career spanning five decades now! Whatever the reason, I like John Travolta and I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit it.
I wanted to admit my fondness for Travolta before I went into this movie so you might understand my decision to watch it because I have a feeling you’re going to judge me for watching this and, if that’s not the case, you will definitely judge me once you hear my thoughts on it. Before we get into that, here’s a little info to prep you for my review.
Life on the Line was written by four different people. For three of them, this is either their first ever writing credit, or the only thing they’ve ever written. Not a good sign. Before this, director David Hackl directed only two movies, Saw V (2008) (very bad!) and Into the Grizzly Maze (2015). With that incredible wealth of talent behind Life on the Line, you might be a bit surprised to hear that after premiering at the Napa Valley Film Festival in November 2015, not a single company picked it up for distribution. NOT ONE! So it sat on the shelf for a whole year until Amazon picked it up and decided make it available to stream on Amazon Prime (It’s still available at the time of my writing this) on November of 2016.
Life on the Line is a story about linemen (the kind that work on power lines, not the kind that play in the NFL), which, according to the text at the beginning of the movie, is the 4th most dangerous job in the world. To tell the story of these blue collar heroes, the four writers I mentioned before decided to check pretty much every box on the movie cliche list. Let’s go through the list; John Travolta plays Beau, a veteran lineman who’s close to his retirement date (check). Kate Bosworth plays his niece, Bailey, who lives with him in a small Texas town. She works at a diner (check) to save up for college (check) so she can get out of that small town someday (check). Devon Sawa (Final Destination, Casper) plays Duncan, a young, hot shot, second generation lineman whom Beau can’t stand because Duncan reminds him of himself when he was younger (check). Duncan also happens to be dating Bailey, but they can’t tell Beau because he would lose his shit (check).
The only cliche missing from that list is something happening to Bailey and the only way to save her is somebody having to do some super heroic lineman stuff to save her life. That would, of course, force Beau and Duncan to set aside their differences, work together, and eventually gain a mutual respect for each other right before one of them is forced to sacrifice himself to get the manly job done. (You know it has to be Beau. He’s SOO close to retirement!) I can’t tell you if that happens in this movie because that would be a spoiler, but what I can tell you is this. . . Yes, that is exactly what happens in this movie. Did you really think they would leave a cliche out? No, sir! Not this crack team of writers!
The acting isn’t much better than the writing, not that the actors are given anything to work with. Travolta, to his credit, gives 100%. He is as likable and charismatic as he always is, and it is very obvious that he is trying his best in this movie. That’s respectable in many ways but, unfortunately for him, the absolutely ridiculous story and writing (and frankly his shortcomings as an actor) don’t help him at all. Scenes that are supposed to be emotional are so over the top and poorly done, they become comical. I’ll give Travolta a pass on this one. Many other actors would have realized how terrible this movie is and phoned in a performance simply to get the paycheck (yeah I’m talking about you, Bruce Willis), but Travolta was professional enough to show up and give his all. Kudos to him for that.
Now for the real comedy gold of Life on the Line, Kate Bosworth as Bailey. I’ve already explained that her character is basically a giant walking cliche, but I cannot properly explain to you how unintentionally hilarious she is in this movie. Kate Bosworth is 35 years old and she’s playing a character that I’m pretty sure is supposed to be somewhere in her early 20s. The writers thought process seemed to be, “Maybe if we mention that she’s about to go to college a bunch of times, the audience will forget that she’s very clearly 10-15 years older than she’s supposed to be.” In fact, if you’re going to watch this movie, you should make it a drinking game. Take a shot every time somebody in the movie mentions Bailey going off to college. That ought to get you pretty wasted which will only serve to make this movie even more hilariously awful than it already is.When she is asked to do emotional scenes, they’re poorly acted, melodramatic scenes that seem like the belong in a Hallmark movie.
Devon Sawa isn’t any better as Bailey’s high school crush who left town (and her) only to return a couple years later to become a lineman like his father. His portrayal is also unintentionally hilarious because he is an awful actor and, like Bosworth, he is way too old for the role. In fact, at 39 he is even older than Bosworth. I was cracking up laughing as I watched this 40 year old man, with graying hair on his temples, reminiscing about “senior year a couple years ago”!
The directing isn’t horrible I suppose. The biggest problem with the director is that, like Travolta, he has no idea how atrocious his movie is. The thing is, I’m not actually sure that’s a problem. I mean, this movie could not have been this fun or funny if it tried. Part of what tips Life on the Line into the So Bad It’s Good territory is the fact that everyone involved tries so damn hard, yet they fail so miserably.
There’s no way around it, this movie is easily one of the worst movies I’ve ever watched. The unoriginal story, cliche characters, terrible acting all somehow combine to make a movie so bad it becomes enjoyable and hilarious. I haven’t even mentioned some of the insane side plots and more ridiculous cliche characters that add nothing to the movie except more God awful hilarity (including an out of nowhere appearance by Sharon Stone as Duncan’s alcoholic mother!). I’ve tried my best to put into words how terrible, yet great, Life on the Line is, but I don’t feel like words do it justice. This is a glorious train wreck of a movie that you just have to see to understand and appreciate!
PLEASE watch this movie and let me know your thoughts. I have to know if anyone else enjoyed this movie as much as I did, or if I’m way off base and this is just a plain awful movie that’s unwatchable. I have a feeling if you give Life on the Line a shot, and you go into it with the right mindset and expectations, you won’t be disappointed. As always, thanks for reading and I would appreciate any and all feedback, comments, opinions, or suggestions!