Review: Life on the Line

Last Updated on July 31, 2021

PLOT: A crew of linemen, in the midst of replacing an outdated electrical grid, are hit by a deadly storm.

REVIEW: I have a theory about John Travolta VOD movies. After watching a few of them, I’m starting to think he only takes the roles based on what kind of wig he can wear, or how elaborate his facial hair can be. In THE FORGER, it was an unruly mop, with an off-center soul patch (that was photo shopped out of the posters) as the finishing touch. In I AM WRATH, it was a pelt that looked like a kind of dead animal that was impossible not to stare at, while in LIFE OF THE LINE, it’s a full-on “Sons of Anarchy” do, topped-off with most dense beard in screen history (it looks almost painted-on at times).

One can’t blame Travolta for trying to amuse himself, as enjoying his wig-work is about the only appeal left in these bottom-of-the-barrel outings. It’s sad to see a screen-great toil in a melodrama that comes off like a CMT movie of the week. It’s admirable that director David Hackl set out to depict the lives of line-men, real life working class heroes that rarely get the respect (or awareness) they deserve. Yet, they merit a better movie than this; a disposable VOD outing that likely won’t get much attention, except maybe from Travolta’s remaining die-hard fans.

The premise is pretty-much recycled from ARMAGEDDON, with Travolta stepping into Bruce Willis’s shoes as the top dog of a gang of working men, pissed that his niece (Kate Bosworth – standing in for Liv Tyler) is hooking up with the hot-dog new recruit (Devon Sawa in the Ben Affleck role), making it less and less likely she’ll head to college. Confusingly, both Bosworth and Sawa appear to be playing characters a good decade younger than they are. It’s jarring to see the thirty-something Bosworth act like a teen caught smoking every time Travolta asks her if she’s still seeing Sawa. His paternal attitude towards this fully grown woman (who still lives at home) has a major creep vibe that’s not intended, and wouldn’t be as evident with more age-appropriate casting. The same goes for Sawa, who, pushing forty, seems too much a veteran to put up with Travolta’s top dog antics.

In the meantime, we’re bombarded with melodramatic plot points, such as Bosworth’s stalker (which has a nasty outcome), Julie Benz’s unpredictable, PTSD-afflicted husband, and the company employing the line-men being too cheap to take the proper safety precautions. If you’ve seen any blue-collar heroes versus the white-collar jerks movies before, you’ll know that when the climactic storm hits (that an on-screen clock counts down to throughout the movie) things have a tragic outcome, scored by Darius Rucker and Fiona Culley’s oppressive country duet.

Sporting production values that make this seem like distinctly small-screen fare, it’s a shame to see Travolta toil in such a minor production. Surely there are better roles available to him post “People vs O.J?” Even his much-maligned former co-star, Nicolas Cage, at least sprinkles in the occasional out-of-lef-field vehicle like DOG EAT DOG into the mix. Travolta, and the cameoing Sharon Stone (chewing scenery as Sawa’s drunk mom), deserve better.

Life on the Line



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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.