Directed By Mike Newell
20th Century Fox
By: Eric Greenwood
Pushing Tin is a confusing and emotionally disjointed film that isn’t sure if it wants to be a comedy or a drama and ends up just missing at both. Even John Cusack’s self-deprecating charm that made movies like The Sure Thing and Grosse Pointe Blank can’t pull this film out of the throes of death. Mike Newell has an ace cast at his disposal, including Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, and Billy Bob Thornton, but the screenplay by Cheers creators, Glen and Les Charles, has a lot of words but not much to say.
Cusack plays Nick Falzone, a cocky air-traffic controller with all his ducks in a row until Billy Bob Thornton blows into town as Russell Bell with his curvy vampress of a wife, Mary, played by Angelina Jolie. Russell is an expressionless eccentric whose zen-like cool intimidates the hell out of everyone at the control tower, especially Nick, creating a testosterone-fueled battle of wills.
Nick and Russell’s rivalry leads to some clever slapstick, absurdist type comedy, but it gets muddied with dramatic bits that don’t balance things out much less get resolved. The dialogue is sharp and cutting one minute but resorts to embarrassing cliches the next. Cusack and Thornton do what they can with the script, but it just isn’t enough. Jolie is a standout, however, as Russell’s displaced hippie alcoholic wife.
Pushing Tin could have been a great picture with proper editing and script direction. It simply tries to do too much in too little time. The ending is hokey and undermines all of the complicated emotion the film tried to capture. Pushing Tin isn’t a total waste of time- it’s just not a film you’d recommend to anyone other than John Cusack completists.