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Nick and the other boys (and Vicki Lewis) working the hotspot of air traffic control in New York are impressed with themselves, to say the least. They thrive on the no-room-for-error, fast-paced job and let it infect their lives. The undisputed king of pushing tin, "The Zone" Falzone, rules his workplace and his wedded life with the same short-attention span that gets planes where they need to be in the nick of time. That is, until Russell Bell, a new transfer with a reputation for recklessness but a record of pure perfection shatters the tensely-held status quo. The game of one-upmanship between the two flies so high as to lead Nick into Russell's bed with his wife. His sanity slipping just as fast as his hold on #1, Cusack's controller is thrown out-of-control when Thornton's wanderer quietly leaves town. Nick must now find a way to regain his sanity and repair his marriage before he breaks down completely. Written by
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A Comedy about losing control (of an admirer it never had)
`Pushing Tin' concerns two air traffic controllers. One is Nick Falzone, played by John Cusack, who as the hotshot of his workplace is happily married to one Connie (Cate Blanchett) with two kids. Into his life comes the notorious new air traffic controller Russell (Billy Bob Thornton) with his beautiful wife Mary (Angelina Jolie). The two men do not react well to one another and spates of jealousy and male rivalry, with consequences, ensue..
To it's credit `Pushing Tin' at least has an original setting - I can't recall another movie about air traffic controllers. Of course its merely a premise for male ego bating, a long running plot concept of countless movies. Here the bating takes place in trying to outdo one another in all aspects - work, social esteem and even with one another's wives. This leads us to the comedic events of this comedy. The comedy here is very soft, as the movie has a more comedy/drama mould to it than being ostensibly an all out comedy. Cusack's performance here is quite manic, as he winds himself up trying to outmatch his peer. As usual it's also quite good - Cusack has a great sense of being an actual character rather than an actor portraying a character. He works very well with the material he's given portraying a character that - while not as well drawn as his roles in such movies as `High Fidelity' and `Grosse Point Blank' - is nonetheless flawed, but still worthy. Thornton's character is the laconic counterpoint, laidback about the situation for most of the time but with a sense of energy and vitality brimming beneath. Thornton once again turns in a neat performance, with just enough character embellishments and detail to lift his character from blandness into quasi-life. Unfortunately Blanchett and Jolie - as the objects of affection - can do little with their limited material and serve merely as surfaces for the two leads to bounce off.
The problem with the movie lies in the pacing of the script. Considering the intensity of the job, there's no pressure ever evident in the movie in either the script or direction (courtesy of Mike Newell). Even the manipulation of planes, using some graphics and actual plane shots, lacks any urgency. Thus the comedy tends to amble along to a rather drab finale. The drama elements are adequate and the performances flesh out the characters, but there's not enough originality to make it avid viewing. Therefore you'd expect the comedy elements to balance it out. Alas, while there're some smiles to be had, there's very few laughing aloud moments. Sure the characters neuroses and clashes can create some amusing sparks but they're not frequent enough, nor sharp enough to sustain this movie as a comedy. Thus, overall, the movie is grand and passable but there's nothing to really warrant much of a look in, except to see the works of two strong Hollywood actors. 5/10.
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