HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: Life on the Line
HTS Overall Score:71
It seems to be a trend nowadays where we have a true story about heroic men and women risking their lives (and usually ending up dead in the process) being adapted for the silver screen. It’s happened with Peter Berg’s films like “Patriot Day” or “Deepwater Horizon” or “Lone Survivor” along with countless other films. Now it’s John Travolta’s time to shine. Or at least TRY to shine in this adaptation of a group of power linemen and one of the most devastating storms in Texas history. Unfortunately, “Life on the Line” kind of beats you over the head with the fact that these linemen (men who work on power lines for a living) are living legends. Men who risk life and limb to keep the power on in the U.S. while doing so under great threat of bodily injury (electricity is no laughing matter) and the film is MORE than amply prepared to tell you again, and again, and again that these guys are AMAZING.
John Travolta is our main hero Beau, a lineman working in Texas. One night while working with his brother on a routine power line, Beau is witness to a fatal accident that ends his brother’s life. To make matters even worse, his sister-in-law is on the way to come to the accident when she slams into a big rig and dies as well, a few scant yards from where Beau is sitting. Now the only he has left in his life is his job, and his now adopted niece Bailey (Kate Bosworth). Fast forward a few more years and Beau is the top dog lineman for Elite systems, and he’s become a bit of a stodgy old guy who values safety above all else (naturally). Bailey is getting ready to go to college and Beau is getting a little protective of his niece’s future. Especially when it comes to what he views as a sub-par boyfriend that she’s been dating.
Yes, things DO get worse for Beau. This boyfriend, a kid named Duncan (Devin Sawa) has signed on to be a member of his crew right about the time the line is under HEAVY construction in a big expansion project. Beau is not exactly one to take his niece’s future lightly so he puts Duncan through the ringer in an effort to have the kid wash out. Despite his best efforts, Duncan has some gumption and continues to work away, despite getting abused by the crotchety old lineman. However, this bickering is all a moot point when a massive storm runs through the Texas flats, ripping up power lines left and right, leaving the grid without power. Now it’s up to these brave guys to go out there in the middle of a raging storm and fix the power lines, and it’s a night that some of them may not make it back alive.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=90530[/img]“Life on the Line” really does try its best to be a heroic film, bud sadly just feels strangely loose and sloppy. John Travolta has been on a downward spiral for the last 10 years and it only seems to be getting worse. The one charismatic and vibrant actor is forced to be playing in these DTV films that just feel like they’re wasting good talent. As Beau, Travolta is woefully miscast, playing a bitter old man with a sour disposition just feels like it’s not playing to the charisma strengths that Travolta is known for. It doesn’t help that the script is just as woefully inept as the casting director was. There are hysterically bad lines where one guys says to Duncan “when that old man hits you your brains will squirt out from your ears” while Travolta just sits and glowers.
Another weakness from the film is that the actual storm and adventure that was advertised on the front cover doesn’t happen till almost an hour and 10 minutes into the film. A film that has been littered with subplots about a PTSD suffering lineman and his wife (played by Julie Benz who looks almost unrecognizable with all the plastic surgery she must have had to her face), as well as a melodramatic romance between Duncan and Bailey and a pregnancy that is telegraphed so badly you can see it coming from a mile away. Then by the time the epic storm comes along and the lineman are out on duty, it’s over with in about 15 minutes.
Rated R for some violence/grisly images and brief strong language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=90538[/img]Shot digitally, “Life on the Line” looks very good for a DTV flick. Colors are fairly neutral, and the saturation levels are quite pleasing. The bright orange of safety vests, or Julie Benz’s bright red lipstick all pop off the screen with startling clarity, while the fine detail levels maintains a healthy amount of revealing the good and bad little nuances of the film. Clothing is intimately and well detailed, while the rough and craggy face of John Travolta holds nothing back on screen. Black levels are good, although I did notice some washing out and crush here and there. It’s a good looking picture, and with solid camera work and cinematography makes for a pretty looking picture.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=90546[/img]The highlight of the film is the stellar sounding 5.1 DTS-HD MA track. Disaster movies always make for ear candy, and while “Life on the Line” isn’t exactly a massive budgeted blockbuster, the audio experience is extremely well done. The crackling of electricity or the roaring of a windstorm all make for an engaging and encompassing surround experience that doesn’t let up. Even with the quieter moments there is still plenty of activity in the surrounds. The diner noises flood in from the rears, while the wind whistling in the Texas town brings in quite a few background noises that complement the picture-perfect dialog. LFE is usually pretty mild, but once the storm gets going it cracks and roars with a goodly amount of power that accentuates the intensity of that film’s final half hour.
• “Life on the Line” Music Video by Fiona Culley featuring Darius Rucker
• Behind the Scenes with Cast/Crew Interviews
“Life on the Line” is a decent enough thriller if you’re really bored, but it suffers from trying to beat you over the head with adoration for the linemen (literally the words “lineman” are used so often throughout the film you’re almost dreading its use by the end of the film) and the overly sappy subplots with side characters totally sap the energy from what could have been a good disaster film (and many of those sub plots are left unresolved). Audio and video are great, but extras are once again a bit on the anemic side. I guess if you really want to check it out then go right ahead, but personally I’d put this one in the “just skip it” pile if I were you.
Starring: John Travolta, Kate Bosworth, Julie Benz
Directed by: David Hackl
Written by: Primo Brown, Peter I. Horton
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 98 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 7th, 2017
Buy Life on the Line On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Skip It
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