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With: John Travolta, Kate Bosworth, Devon Sawa, Julie Benz, Gil Bellows, Sharon Stone, Ryan Robbins
Written by: Primo Brown, Peter I. Horton, Marvin Peart, Dylan Scott
Directed by: David Hackl
MPAA Rating: R for some violence/grisly images and brief strong language
Running Time: 97
Date: 11/18/2016

Life on the Line (2016)

2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The filmmakers behind this earnest, heartfelt drama truly want to pay tribute to the brave men in this job, but the movie is packed with soft cliches, without really grasping the details of hard work.

In Life on the Line, a group of Texas men work the dangerous job of maintaining the electrical grid. One rainy night, Beau (John Travolta) witnesses his brother dying in a terrible accident, and he takes on the task of raising his young niece, Baily. Years later, Baily (Kate Bosworth) is grown up and preparing to head for college. Baily's ex-boyfriend Duncan (Devon Sawa) is hired on the line crew for a huge retrofit, which must be completed before a looming deadline, and before a massive storm hits.

Beau does not trust Duncan, and does not think he's good for Baily. Meanwhile, another lineman (Ryan Robbins), a war veteran with untreated PTSD, seems to be increasingly unstable, and a local man with a crush on Baily begins stalking her. Can the crew survive this tense time?

The screenplay relies on soap opera mechanics, with characters behaving in certain specific, rigid ways designed to move the plot; they are never allowed to emerge as characters. Not to mention that the plot itself is so weary and shopworn that it's not hard to guess what's coming as the movie slogs forward.

And, in all this, the point of the lineman — understanding his work — is more or less lost; we see images of men climbing poles and attaching clamps to things, but that's about it. John Travolta — underneath yet another batch of bizarre facial hair — manages to find some kind of weary, inner life to his character, and in a small role as an alcoholic, Sharon Stone proves she still has onscreen electricity, but otherwise, this movie is dead as a downed power line.

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