MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Line’ Could Have Been a Contender


Set in Scotland, amid rural drizzle and Glasgow grit, “Crossing the Line” (AMC Century 14) is a pugilistic thriller that tries to launch a fusillade of jabs against Thatcherism.

It’s a fierce melodrama about a rebel ex-miner thrust into a high-style world of big money, bare-knuckle boxing and moral rot. And there are some good, harrowing scenes in it, notably a vicious fight scene with two working-class pugs--one played by Liam Neeson and the other by Scottish ex-light heavyweight champ Rab Afleck--maiming and tearing each other apart, while posh bettors yell lasciviously. Its setting looks like a slaughterhouse in hell.

But something about “Crossing the Line” keeps pushing the movie away from us, perhaps a matter of attack and style.

“Crossing the Line” (MPAA rated R for sex, nudity, language, violence, drug use) is like “On the Waterfont” with no contenders, less life. There’s a fine, eerie Ennio Morricone score and some very good performances: Neeson’s, Billy Connolly’s as his sleazy tempter-buddy Frank and, especially, Ian Bannen as Mason, a wealthy Glasgow hood with silkenly insinuating manners, and a knifelike tension under his achingly taut smiles. But the actors seem to be grabbing at surfaces, while the surfaces slide away from them.


Director David Leland--who co-wrote “Mona Lisa,” directed “Wish You Were Here” and then got caught in a frenetic American comedy “Checking Out"--doesn’t seem to have calmed down yet. He keeps cutting nervously; he won’t relax into a moment. Writer Don McPherson seems to have pared down William McIlvaney’s novel and tried to purify its themes, including the vital one of a poor man trying to hang on to his dignity in horrendous circumstances.

But the characters interact less than preach or spring plot twists. The movie doesn’t jell until its showpiece fight scene, which has a gruesome, grueling effectiveness and, by then, it’s gotten so close to the usual American revenge movie, it can’t really regain poise. It’s been spattering the blood too fancily to let us feel the wounds.

‘Crossing the Line’

Liam Neeson: Danny Scoular


Joanne Whalley-Kilmer: Beth Scoular

Ian Bannen: Matt Mason

Billy Connolly: Frankie

A Palace/Miramax Film Corp./British Satellite Broadcasting/British Screen presentation of a Palace/Stephen Woolley production, released by MiraMax. Director David Leland. Producer Stephen Woolley. Executive producer Nik Powell. Screenplay by Don McPherson. Cinematographer Ian Wilson. Editor George Akers. Costumes Mary-Jane Reymer. Music Ennio Morricone. Production design Caroline Amies. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.


MPAA-rated R (Violence, sex, nudity, language, drug use).