Pushing Tin (1999) starring John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett, Angelina Jolie, Jake Weber, Kurt Fuller, Vicki Lewis, Matt Ross directed by Mike Newell Movie Review

Pushing Tin (1999)   3/53/53/53/53/5

John Cusack as Nick Falzone in Pushing Tin (1999)

High Infidelity

Frustrating, that what was the lasting feeling I has after I finished watching "Pushing Tin" because quite simply it is. Here is a movie which starts off, well I wouldn't say brilliantly but in such a way it grabs your attention as we are taken into the high pressure world of flight control and it sets up an alpha male situation between two controllers. It is sharp, energetic and amusing as these two men rival each other for the position of top dog, the king of the radar. But then at the half way point the movie changes and becomes ordinary, delivering a storyline which has been done before, before finally going right off the radar with a corny ending. It almost has the feel of the writers coming up with a good idea and then finding themselves coming up short when it comes to length and so tagged on an ordinary second half leaving the audience frustrated and to be honest a little disappointment.

Nick Falzone (John Cusack - Con Air) is the fast talking top dog of air control; he can line up one plane after another for landing and is so on the ball that nothing fazes him. That is until Russell Bell (Billy Bob Thornton - Armageddon) shows up for work whose notoriety for danger precedes him and Nick finds his position of being the best, looked up to by all the staff threatened by the ultra cool and unflappable Russell. As Nick and Russell push each other to the limit as they rival each other for top dog it leads to Nick making a fatal mistake, he beds Russell's young wife Mary (Angelina Jolie - Wanted) and suddenly the control he had over everything is gone as paranoia creeps in destroying his life and marriage.

Billy Bob Thornton as Russell Bell in Pushing Tin (1999)

So if you split "Pushing Tin" in two you have one movie which lasts an hour which is good and then a second movie which last an hour which is ordinary and daft. That first movie is all about Nick being the king of the flight control and it has a real sharpness to it as we watch him charismatically control the radar, lining up planes in a way it seems impossible and with the entire staff being in awe of him. And then we have the fun of the quirky, half Indian Russell showing up and Nick feeling threatened by a man who can out do him at everything, from shooting baskets to lining up planes and is so cool that even a close call on the highway doesn't faze him. It is fun, sharp and witty as with he have this alpha male rivalry going on with Nick struggling to deal with being out done by Russell.

Now all of this leads to a mistake when Nick taking sympathy on Russell's drunk wife ends up bedding her and suddenly his control has gone. The trouble is that the entire movie shifts because it is no longer about who is the best but Nick's spiral into paranoia as he fears what Russell will do if he finds out, what his wife Connie will do and some other stuff. But it seems so ordinary a story of a man who fears being caught out having a one night stand and this ordinary story then turns to daft, not quirky purely daft as it tries to bring everything to an end. It loses its way and as I said it feels like the writers came up with a good idea but didn't have enough material and resorted to using a tried and tested formula to pad out the second half.

It is a shame as during that first half "Pushing Tin" is not only sharp it also features great performances from John Cusack making Nick this king of control as his mind works like some super computer to take everything in and plan ahead. And with Billy Bob Thornton give us ultra cool as Russell the whole alpha male rivalry is good fun especially with Russell's almost emotionless face as he gets one up on Nick. But then during the second half the characters become ordinary and the performances become forgettable and not just from Cusack and Thornton because those from the rest of the cast which includes Cate Blanchett and Angelina Jolie also become ordinary.

What this all boils down to is that "Pushing Tin" is a movie which for the first half will grab your attention and keep you entertained with the humour of the flight control centre and the alpha male rivalry. But then during the second half it will lose you as it becomes distinctly ordinary.