Two-Minute Warning (1976) starring Charlton Heston, John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Martin Balsam, Beau Bridges, David Janssen, Jack Klugman, Walter Pidgeon directed by Larry Peerce Movie Review

Two-Minute Warning (1976)   2/52/52/52/52/5

David Janssen and Gena Rowlands in Two-Minute Warning (1976)

Subdued Sniper Shocker

"Two-Minute Warning" wants to be a thriller, but it's a thriller which uses the disaster movie formula to create the drama. What this means is that whilst there is no natural disaster for a group of plucky survivors to battle against it takes us through the steps introducing us to all the main characters whilst hinting at the impending doom, an impending doom which is a sniper at a football game. The trouble is that "Two-Minute Warning" isn't exciting, in fact with the exception of some surprisingly graphic deaths there is little to really get you gripped. Actually that's a sort of lie as for most of the movie we never get a full view of the sniper and so you do keep watching wanting to know who this killer is and what his motives are. Sadly the wait isn't worth it and "Two-Minute Warning" ends up frankly very disappointing.

As the crowds form at a Los Angeles football stadium for a championship game no one is aware of a sniper who has positioned himself above the scoreboard. But when one of the camera crew spots the gunman via footage sent down from the blimp he calls in the police. Captain Peter Holly (Charlton Heston - Earthquake) and SWAT commander Sergeant Button (John Cassavetes - The Dirty Dozen) rush to the stadium but with time ticking down and no way to get up to the sniper it looks like disaster is on the cards.

Mitch Ryan and Jack Klugman in Two-Minute Warning (1976)

So as already mentioned "Two-Minute Warning" basically takes the disaster movie route and so for around the first half of the movie we get introduced to all of those characters which will become important when things kick off. And it is a diverse bunch from a car salesman and his long suffering girlfriend, an elderly pick pocket, an unemployed father and his family and of course the chief of police who finds himself trying to stop the sniper before he murders anyone. The trouble is that director Larry Peerce spends a lot of time focusing on these characters but strangely they still end up as 2 dimensional figures so when the trouble starts and in true disaster movie style some of them die there is no emotional connection to them.

And of course whilst all of this is going on we get the sense of impending doom as we watch the sniper murder a cyclist for target practice before heading to the coliseum to take their position above the scoreboard. Now I have to say that because for the majority of the movie we never see the sniper with the camera basically giving us the viewpoint of what he sees it did make me curious. I wanted to know who he was, why he was going to kill and whilst the storyline failed to keep me interested the desire to know kept me going. But sadly when you do get to see who this sniper is all I can say is that it is disappointing and frankly I felt cheated.

All of this means that "Two-Minute Warning" is not only disappointing but also annoying. It's annoying because the concept of a sniper targeting a big football game has a lot of potential and could have been really exciting rather than really dull. What stops it from being terrible is when things do kick off and the sniper starts shooting the graphic deaths are quite shocking, not in the sense of being gore but in being very in your face. And the actual sense of panic which fills the stadium with the crowd rushing to escape is also surprisingly intense and probably the best part of the entire movie, shame it ends up such a small part.

Now in true disaster movie style "Two-Minute Warning" has a lot of recognizable faces such as Charlton Heston, Walter Pidgeon, Gena Rowlands, John Cassavetes, Beau Bridges and Jack Klugman but I can't say that a single one of them stood out. As such it feels like we have these well known actors basically going through the paces delivering cliche, 2 dimensional disaster movie characters and nothing more. Basically the performances and characters are dull, there is no other word for it and whilst Charlton Heston and John Cassavetes are meant to be our 2 heroes they fail to really deliver the action machismo you expect.

What this all boils down to is that "Two-Minute Warning" is a disappointing thriller with employs the disaster movie formula but never gets much from it. There is little about it which really works except for the crowd scenes when the sniper starts shooting otherwise it leaves you wanting.