Blu-ray Review: Life On the Line (2016)

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John Travolta stars in the soapy melodrama Life On the Line, a direct-to-video feature that made its festival debut in 2015. The film tells the story, based on "true events" an opening title card insists, of a group of high-wire workers who risk their lives daily in order to keep the power grid up and running. Lionsgate releases the film to Blu-ray (also available on DVD and Digital HD) on February 7. This one is for Travolta junkies only.

The biggest problem with director David Hackl's (Saw V) film is that it can't decide whether to be a kitchen-sink drama or a disaster film. There's a somber tone throughout, apparently an attempt to pay tribute to those who bravely work on the lines (as well as the many who have lost their lives in the process). The fact that the film's a raging cheese-fest can't help but sabotage even the most sincere of intentions. Lineman Beau (Travolta) is guardian to Bailey (Kate Bosworth), who was orphaned when her lineman father died in the field during a storm. Bailey has big-time boy trouble with Duncan (Devon Sawa), a lineman on Beau's team. Beau doesn't exactly approve of the relationship (not sure why), leading to some cliched, often hysterical confrontations in Beau's home and work life.

Throughout the various relationship dramas (including one involving Duncan's nagging, bitter mother, played by Sharon Stone), a storm of epic proportions is continually teased. But when the big storm finally hits, the budget apparently didn't allow for any Into the Storm or Twister-style extravaganza. The sacrifice made by key character after a series of highly unlikely crime-drama events will leave you scratching your head in disbelief. If Hackl and company wanted to actually pay tribute to real-life linemen, they'd have made a documentary about the profession. Life On the Line might've been fun cinematic junk food if the pretentiousness had been ditched and the ridiculousness fully embraced.

There's a 'making of' featurette on Lionsgate's Blu-ray that makes plain just how seriously the filmmakers approached this subject matter. It's really a shame that such good intentions didn't translate to better results. The earnestness of Life On the Line required a more nuanced approach rather than stock characters and their corny interactions.


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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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