Film: In the Line of Fire
Lily Raines: What makes you think he'll call again?
Frank Horrigan: Oh, he'll call again. He's got, uh, "panache."
Horrigan: Yeah, it means flamboyance.
Raines: Mm, I know what it means.
Horrigan: Really? I had to look it up.In the Line of Fire
is a 1993 Psychological Thriller
about a Secret Service agent named Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood
) trying to stop potential assassin Mitch Leary (John Malkovich
), who has contacted him to give him advance notice that he plans to kill the President of the United States. So begins a cat-and-mouse chase as the assassin drops hints to taunt and torment Horrigan, whose history (on detail at the time of the Kennedy assassination
) he knows perfectly well. The advertising for the movie made explicit reference to the fact that it was released 30 years after the Kennedy assassination. Also stars Rene Russo as Horrigan's partner.
Notable for being Eastwood's last role in which he wasn't also directing (until 2012's Trouble with the Curve
). Also notable for the extensive consultation done with the Secret Service in order to achieve realism — this had not been done before in Hollywood.
Contains examples of:
- And This Is for...: Leary's murder of Al becomes yet another reason why Horrigan is so determined to catch him.
- Batman Cold Open: Busting counterfeiters at the beginning of the movie. It's quite brilliant a choice because that's what the Secret Service spends most of their time doing.note
- Berserk Button: Leary doesn't really have fond memories of his time with the CIA.
- Bit Part Bad Guys: The aforementioned counterfeiters.
- Blood from the Mouth: Al. In an especially cruel version, he's ALREADY dead. Leary just shoots him one more time to make certain, and that's when the blood starts pouring out of him.
- Brick Joke: "I know things about pigeons, Lily."
- Bullet Proof Vest: How Horrigan survives taking a bullet from Leary for the President. Leary thinks this is cheating.
- The Call Knows Where You Live: Leary first contacts Frank by ringing him at home.
- Chekhov's Gun: "Ukelele" [sic] helps solve the riddle of "Skellum".
- "Sometimes people die just because they're from Minneapolis."
- The Chessmaster: Leary.
- CIA Evil, Secret Service Good: It is explained that Leary is so Dangerously Genre Savvy because he used to be a CIA assassin.
- Counterfeit Cash: What Frank is investigating in the beginning. It's also Truth in Television since before they became known for protecting the President and government officials, the Secret Service was originally established as a bureau of the Treasury that investigated money counterfeiting (which they still do today).
- Creepy Monotone: Leary borders on one. But of course, he is being played by John Malkovich.
- Criminal Mind Games
- Deadpan Snarker: Frank, especially towards the end.
- Dead Sidekick: Al.
- Don't Make Me Destroy You: Leary has no real intention to harm Frank, even though he clearly enjoys toying with him. He warns Frank not to get "too" close though, or he'll have to kill him.
- Dress Hits Floor: Gracefully subverted. When Frank and Lily end in the room together the floor is hit with handcuffs, pistols, holsters, badges etc. Complete with rather loud thumps. When she has to leave abruptly, he looks around in frustration and mutters, "Now I have to put all that shit back on again."
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: "Do you know how easily I could kill you Frank? ... So you show me some GODDAMN RESPECT!"
- Even Evil Has Standards: Leary's reaction to the two hunters who catch him trying out his new assassination pistol is, "Why did you kill that bird, asshole?"
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Pam's dog, who knows something's not right about Leary's cover of "James Carney".
- Evil Genius: Leary.
- Fair Cop: More like "Fair Secret Service Agent", but still, Lily and Al are quite attractive.
- Foreshadowing: Among Al's first lines as he arrives late to pick up Frank, are "I'm dead, I'm dead, I'm dead. . ." Not to mention his mentioning his wife and kid shortly after.
- For the Evulz: Leary plans to kill himself anyway after his assassination. He wasn't really trying to make any political change so much as go down in a blaze of notoriety.
- Functional Alcoholic: Frank is a recovering alcoholic who does some casual boozing.
- Heroic BSOD: Frank, after Al is killed and he begins to think there's no way to stop Leary from carrying out his plan.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted - Leary suggests that Frank wasn't prepared to make one for Kennedy in 1963. See also Taking the Bullet below.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Leary feels that he was turned into one by the CIA when they abandoned and nearly killed him when he became a liability.
- Hope Spot: In the split second that Al has his gun trained on Leary. You can almost see Al finally shaking off whatever anxiety he had about being a good agent as he realizes that he's caught the guy, but the distraction is just long enough for Leary to draw his own gun and shoot him
- If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten: The counterfeiters at the start of the film ask the undercover Frank to shoot his partner, who they know to be a Secret Service agent, to prove that he's not one too. Frank goes through with it - and it turns out the gun was empty (which he'd suspected based on how heavy it was).
- IKEA Weaponry: Leary's assassination weapon is composed of several pieces of composite, which he assembles after getting them past the security checkpoint. The only metal components are the bullets and the springs; the former are hidden in a rabbit's foot keychain and the latter in a pen, enabling him to get them past the metal detector by putting them in the key tray.
- Ironic Echo:
- "Take my hand. If you don't, you'll die."
- "I guess I overreacted again, Harry".
- It's Personal: Why Frank wants to be part of the President's protective detail, and why his bosses are initially reluctant to let him do so.
- Well, to be fair, they're also reluctant because he's much, much older than is really optimal for such a physically demanding assignment.
- There's also his anger over Al's death.
- Kick the Dog: Leary kills Frank's nice-guy partner, though he's quick to justify it as self-defense. In-universe too, as Al finally shakes off the confidence issues that have plagued him throughout the film, only to get killed two seconds later.
- Killed Mid-Sentence: Al
Al: "Frank! I got him, Frank—-"
- Manly Tears: Frank's eyes fill up after he tells Lily how he reacted when Kennedy was shot, and Lily takes his hand (Word of God says the latter party was improvised by Rene Russo).
- Master of Disguise: Leary.
- Meaningful Name: "Call me Booth."
- Metal Detector Checkpoint: To get a gun past a metal detector, Leary makes a plastic gun and carries the bullets in his key chain.
- Multitasked Conversation: At the climax, Frank hears over his hidden earpiece that the snipers can't get a clear shot on Leary, who has him on the ground at gunpoint. Frank challenges Leary to shoot, he doesn't care, and Leary doesn't catch on until Frank adds, "One more thing: Aim high."
- My Greatest Failure: Frank regrets that he wasn't paranoid enough in '63 and Kennedy was killed because of it.
- No Name Given: the President of the United States is only referred to as "the President" or by his Secret Service-given codename "Traveler". The First Lady is also unnamed.
- No Party Given: Never specified. The only hint is that several people at one of the rallies are carrying pro-choice posters, while at a later event the Secret Service have to find an alternate route because their first choice of route is blocked by pro-life demonstrators, suggesting he is a Democrat.
- Not So Different: Invoked several times by Leary in his conversations with Frank, but ultimately subverted. As far as Frank's concerned, he was just doing his job all along, and when he gets home he doesn't even bother to wait around and listen to Leary's post-mortem answerphone message, walking out the door with Lily even as Leary begins talking about how he's doomed to die alone.
- Oh, Crap: Leary's reaction when the bank clerk is from Minneapolis, where he is pretending to be from, and asks him where he went to high school. Though he plays it relatively cool and probably would have avoided suspicion, the mere thought that he might have made an impression on her as a phony makes him decide to kill her.
- Old Cop, Young Cop: Frank and Al
- Properly Paranoid: Frank is right about the President being targeted, but he comes off as delusional to his colleagues.
- Retirony: First, Al mentions his wife and child in his first scene. Then, after a harrowing shoot-out, he wonders if he has what is takes to be an agent (it seems he's a rookie). If this isn't a tip-off that the poor guy's gonna die, his teary-eyed decision to resign (which Frank talks him out of) should clinch it.
- Roof Hopping
- See the Whites of Their Eyes: Horrigan mentions this when explaining why he doesn't wear sunglasses on detail.
- Sarcasm Mode: "Did you think of that all by yourself?"
- Scare Chord: Accompanies several of Leary's appearances, especially towards the end of the film.
- Shown Their Work: For the first time in Hollywood history, there was extensive consultation with the Secret Service to make sure that their portrayal was realistic.
- Suck My Gun: Leary on the roof. Also counts as a Throw It In, as Malkovich improvised it on the spot.
- Stay in the Kitchen: Horrigan passes several sexist comments about agent Raines, as she is the first female Secret Service agent he has worked with.
- Take My Hand: Leary to Frank, then later Frank to Leary with an Ironic Echo.
- Taking the Bullet: Frank. Leary suggests that wearing a bulletproof vest was kind of cheating.
- There Are No Therapists: Averted. When Al announces his intention to quit as he can't deal with the stress of the job, Frank tells him that the agency has counseling to help agents deal with this. Al mentions that he's been to the counselors, but it hasn't helped.
- Time-Compression Montage
- Token Romance: The subplot of Horrigan and Raines's relationship does seem a little shoehorned in.
- Took a Level in Badass: He's already pretty Badass, but after nearly collapsing from heat stroke while running alongside the Presidential limo, Frank gets himself into such good shape that he's able to scale a building and run across rooftops with as much ease as the much younger Al.
- Tranquil Fury: Leary. He only really loses his cool once.
- Villain Ball: Leary's non-sequitur that "sometime people die just because they're from Minneapolis" ends up being critical information.
- Villains Never Lie: Leary claims that he will never ever lie to Frank, and for the most part he doesn't.
- Who Shot JFK?: Averted. The details of the assassination are not called into question. Near the end of the film, Frank expresses his contempt for all of the drunken armchair theorists who've invented conspiracy theories about it. Even Leary, about as paranoid and anti-government as you can get, never suggests that he thinks Oswald wasn't a lone gunman.