Review: John Travolta toils in working man melodrama ‘Life on the Line’

‘Life on the Line’
John Travolta, left, and Gil Bellows in the movie “Life on the Line.”
(Lionsgate Pemiere)

The potboiler “Life on the Line” salutes the folks who risk serious injury every day to keep our power flowing. This is the kind of salt-of-the-earth story that American filmmakers don’t bother with much anymore — although frankly, there’s not much here to convince anyone they should.

John Travolta stars as Beau, a Texas utility company foreman who frets that his greedy bosses are pushing too hard to upgrade a complicated grid as storm season looms. The story builds to a raging tempest, which hits as Beau’s crew is out in the field.

Travolta is as charismatic as he’s been in a while, playing someone less outsized than he has lately. (Even his exaggerated accent and glued-on facial hair don’t hamper his performance.) He’s ably supported by familiar faces such as Kate Bosworth as Beau’s niece, Julie Benz as a woman dealing with her husband’s Iraq war PTSD, and Sharon Stone as one lineman’s drunken mama.

But director David Hackl and a suspiciously large number of screenwriters don’t seem to trust the inherent fascination of watching burly dudes hang cable in the wind and lightning. The movie relies on a needlessly intricate flashback structure and a lot of long, flat dialogue scenes to flesh out every character.


Sixty years ago, a film like this would star Humphrey Bogart or Robert Ryan, and would let the rigor of the work drive the plot. “Life on the Line” traffics in piled-on, predictable melodrama, with only intermittent sparks.


‘Life on the Line’

Rating: R, for some violence/grisly images and brief strong language


Running time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Royal, Santa Monica

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