On the Line (TV Movie 1997) Poster

(1997 TV Movie)

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Brave idea but badly flawed
bob the moo24 October 2001
The film opens with a violent bank robbery before moving to follow Linda Hamilton investigating a violent sex crime. As the film progresses we follow Hamilton as she follows up the sex crime and gets involved in the investigation into the bank robbing gang.

This film feels like it is about Hamilton, Farley and Coolio pursuing the gang, but then this subplot of the sex crime doesn't seem to fit in. The reason for this is that this film is about Hamilton's character rather than the criminals or the crimes - these are included because they impact in her life. We see how Hamilton's relationship with her child is affected and how she is changed by dealing with the sex crimes.

The problem with this is that her character isn't that well scripted and the insights that we're supposed to get are not exactly draw out with any great subtlety. That wouldn't be a problem if the rest of the storylines were strong but they aren't - they all just seem to float around and only get followed when Hamilton is involved and they're only used to show her character in some way. The plot about the rapist is poor and is resolved due to a couple of very unlikely situations, while the gang scenes are good but the conclusion has no tension, no drama and brings no real closure to the story.

This is a shame because this is the best element of the slightly disjoined plot. The gang's leader is excellent as the unhinged Laurette - playing it sexy and dangerous, but isn't really given anywhere to go with it. As I said, these storylines just seem to be included to make a point about Hamilton's character, once the point is made the stories are pretty much tidied up as best as possible without too much consideration for those involved. An example of what I mean is Michael Mann's Heat - with it the crimes and the characters share the stage allowing emotional development, tension and action. With On The Line we get join the dots emotions without any sustained story, tension or action.

Hamilton is good in the lead role and does make her character believable - it is a shame that the direction makes most of the character points really obvious (like we're too stupid to understand), because she is good enough to bring emotions through gradually. Farley is OK, but isn't called on to do much - his character is pretty one-dimensional and doesn't rise out of the group of cops that get involved in squadroom banter. However you do get the feeling that his character was meant to be more that a step in the development of Hamilton's character. Coolio and the rest of the cops provide some comic relief, but again but really bring anything to the film.

This is a reasonable TV movie. It is a brave idea to base the whole movie around Hamilton's character but it doesn't really work out because it ignores the other elements of the film - where's the action of the robberies? Where's the drama with the sex crimes? These subplots could have been expanded in conjunction with the exploration of Hamilton's character and would have made a much fuller, more entertaining film. Such as it is - it's not great.
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10/10
Police drama without a flaw.
AmsterdamReprobate29 July 2001
Police movies often have flaws, from cardboard characters to unrealistic dialogue. This film is a rare bird, realistic on all counts, from the action to the interaction. The violence is gritty but well-handled. The good guys are regular people, not heroes. The criminals are intelligent and organized, not just a bunch of degenerates. As a writer I often find fault in dialogue, but here the dialogue is terse and believable. Also, the humour is witty without crossing the line into being crass. Linda Hamilton, often playing strong women, accurately portrays a police woman struggling to balance a law enforcement career, a love life, and the care for her son. Haunted by her experiences in the Sex Crime Division she forces a transfer to the Robbery/Homicide Division, where she is confronted with her last Sex Crime case, as the victim dies from the violence inflicted by the rapist. To see Hamilton's character deal with relocating the victim's retarded son is extremely moving, as is her own son's anger and fear when she comes home late and drunk after a 'night with the boys'. The police action often reminded me of the realism of police series like Hill Street Blues or NYPD Blue. Not only do you see the work involved in strategic decisions, but the psychological background is not lost either. All in all a realistic movie, with believable characters involved in believable action and interaction. What more can you want?
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4/10
What the hell?
paolobut195 December 2003
Not expecting much from a BBC 1 midweek late night movie was the right approach when engaging with this film. And i wasnt disappointed. As well as the complete incoherence of the multiple storylines, at times I wondered if the director got bored of each storyline, or merely forgot about them. I took serious issue with the amount of undue force used by the detectives, especially when interrogating the rape suspect. "My turn", says the detective. A sexual reference, i wonder? I feel the complete ineptitude of the entire production scene is best illustrated when, in the 'climactic' final robbery scene, the director decided to fade the screen to black, hence stopping any flow that the scene might have had, amateur production. Maybe, in the editing process, the director found this new toy of fading out, and couldnt resist using it. Or maybe he's just crap. The only selling point was Linda Hamilton rugby tackling a criminal through the hedge, and being called a ho by a tramp. Even the twist ending, with her partner being shot in the bar by random drunk man, managed to make the film even more ridiculous. Overall, dont waste your time, other than to be amused by its atrociousness. Watch Motorcycle Gang instead.
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