Pushing Tin (1999) – Review

1 1/2 Stars

Pushing Tin is a phrase used to describe the job that air traffic controllers perform. That unique profession is the intriguing backdrop for this rudimentary and dull film. John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, and Cate Blanchett give their all to the clichéd material, but it’s difficult to understand what attracted them to this material in the first place. The misguided story presents us with four main characters that are highly irritating, each of whom are locked into a contrived story regarding a love triangle and eventual adultery. The film aims for black comedy with its unconventional attempts at humor, but even that low-bar isn’t achieved.

Nick (John Cusack) and Russell (Billy Bob Thornton) are involved in an intense professional rivalry. they engage daily in an intense game of one-upmanship as air traffic monitors. Nick a hyper-active hot-shot and the best at his job inside a Long Island air tower. That’s until Russell roars into town on his motorcycle and shakes up Nick’s life. The two men embark upon a contest of wills that eventually threatens Nick’s marriage and career. Russell’s sultry wife (Angelina Jolie) further complicates things when she has an affair with Nick that causes the bad-blood between the two co-workers to escalate into a full on war of machismo.

Pushing Tin is undoubtedly one of the worst or at least, one of the most disappointing films of 1999. It has nothing to say about the high-risk low reward job of air traffic controllers and seems to know even less about how human beings actually behave. Cusack and Thornton are good actors trapped within the confines of a ridiculous script. As for Angelina Jolie, she barely registers with her limited screen-time. And to make matters worse we are left wondering why the Cusack character risks everything for a tryst with her. At over two hours in length, Pushing Tin becomes a laborious exercise in contrived scripting that even high-class actors and a notable director can’t salvage.

Director: Mike Newell
Stars: John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett

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