In the Line of Fire

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
In the Line of Fire Movie Poster Image
Sturdy but violent Clint Eastwood assassination thriller.
  • R
  • 1993
  • 127 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Message of duty and honor in Frank's drive to protect the Chief Executive, regardless of personal bitterness about unfairness on and off the job.

Positive role models & representations

Frank is an upstanding, professional, punctual lawman who refuses to let Leary's taunts -- and his own superiors' enmity -- turn him against the U.S. government. On the negative side, he is described as a divorced alcoholic (apparently “in recovery”) and a sexist, whose flirtations with a female agent are decidedly old-school. Abovementioned female co-worker speaks to women integrated into the Secret Service (though this one doesn't do much besides fall in love with Frank). African Americans are also represented on the team.

Violence

Shootings (or threats of shootings) at close range, with blood, fatalities. Two characters brutally beaten/strangled to death; another falls from a lethal altitude.

Sex

Frank and his leading lady shed clothing (just out of frame) before an (interrupted) bedroom tussle; it's mainly a gag shot to disclose how much weaponry they carry. The point is made that their relationship has become intimate. Brief shot of another scantily clad couple surprised on the couch in a police raid.

Language

Frequent swearing including "f--k," "s--t," "ass," "bastard," "damnit."

Consumerism

Magazines such as Time and Esquire on display. Frank likes jazz recordings, especially Miles Davis.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Frank is said to have a drinking problem but nothing is really shown.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that violence in this actioner includes innocent characters disturbingly murdered (shootings, bludgeonings, strangulation) just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is a walk-through of how one might get close to a U.S. president for killing purposes. Swearing is frequent and includes "f--k" and "s--t." The hero (declared to be a divorced alcoholic) and the heroine have sex, though nothing is really shown. The bad guy hints at Washington D.C.'s distrustful secret side, of training hit-men, and carrying out assassinations. Somehow there is no mention of particular political parties, issues, or leanings, even with the election-year backdrop.

User Reviews

Adult Written bysarge123 January 24, 2015

Excellent Eastwood thriller has some brutal/shocking violence.

Violence includes neck-breaking, fist fights and some bloody shootings. The scene in which two women get their necks broken is particularly brutal (though not v... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byL.Ferguson December 8, 2011

good movie got it on dvd

I thought this was an interesting movie with a good story. It had a couple of violent moments an quite a lot of swearing
Teen, 14 years old Written byFILMCRITIC500 August 21, 2013

suspenseful thriller has mild violence but strong language

this gripping, tense, and well acted thriller isn't the kind of action movie you would see. it is rather a thriller/suspense movie that excels in holding t... Continue reading

What's the story?

Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood) is a veteran Secret Service agent who, early in his career, was in Dallas the day John F. Kennedy died and has been haunted by the idea that he could have saved the president's life. Now Frank starts getting calls from Mitch Leary (John Malkovich), a crafty, elusive psychopath obsessed with the idea of killing the current (unnamed) U.S. president in an act of kamikaze revenge against the government. Mitch considers Frank to be something of a kindred spirit, even a “friend,” and he toys with the increasingly frustrated agent while stalking the presidential re-election campaign.

Is it any good?

A lot here is expected action-movie cliche. You have the novice-cop partner who's as obviously doomed as those Star Trek guys in red shirts; a “liberated” lady (Rene Russo) who clashes with Frank intially but is destined to be his lover; snotty superiors who don't listen to Frank's warnings. The plot does seem to go on a bit long, leaving no cliffhangers un-hung.

But the formula works like gangbusters, thanks to strong casting and a script that uses Eastwood's advancing age and old-school attitudes to good advantage. It's not just a shoot-'em-up but a compelling intellectual match between hero and villain; Mitch, a jaded ex-soldier who doesn't believe in anything anymore, up against the stern, duty-bound Frank, whom he truly admires as an “honorable” man and can't see why Frank puts his life on the line for decades for those unworthy of him.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the various killers and would-be killers who have targeted U.S. presidents and their often-bizarre motivations (such as impressing Jodie Foster).

  • Does this movie make Secret Service work look like a desirable career? Why or why not?

  • Talk about the extraordinary career of Clint Eastwood. Once considered a squinty, limited actor best for all those cop-gunslinger roles, Eastwood has since become a small-town mayor, a musician-composer, and a revered, world-class director. Check out Eastwood's piano stylings in Martin Scorsese's musical docuseries The Blues.

Movie details

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