Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

All hail Cuba Gooding Jr., king of the New School. He who we at the FCU crown new King and our New Champion of Direct to Video. I believe it is official now as Mr. Gooding Jr.’s last five films have been straight to DVD with the exception of ‘Daddy Day Camp’ which I think we can all admit should’ve gone Straight to DVD. Some people may see this as a bad thing or a slap in the face to Cuba, but not me. This is a great day, because since we here at the FCU are champions of direct to DVD movies I don’t think we’ve had a hero with a pedigree such as this to lead us. Our current champions are pretty much finished. Steven Seagal is too old as his stunt man gets more screen time than he does, Van Damme has begun to parody himself and Wesley is in jail. Even when Wes was a free man he treated the films that he was in as an inconvenience. Cuba however is still young, has an Academy Award on his shelf, still acts in theatrical films, just not as the star i.e., ‘American Gangster’ or ‘Norbit’ for example, is more than capable of doing his own stunts and most importantly, he seems to still gives a damn. We here at the FCU enjoyed Mr. Gooding Jr.’s last film ‘Hero Wanted’ but we liked this one, ‘Linewatch’, even more.

Our film opens with border patrol officer Michael Dixon (Gooding Jr.) along with his partner Luis (Omar Paz Trujillo) happening upon a cargo truck filled with dead illegal aliens. Desperate to find who perpetrated this crime Dixon follows the clues until it leads him to a particular hideout which leads to shootout with Dixon taking down some perps, but his partner is critically injured in the process. One peculiar thing that happens during the exchange of bullets is Dixon getting shot at by an African American fellow, who as he turns around to face this man that is trying to kill him, they both freezes in their tracks as they obviously recognize each other and Dixon doesn’t return fire allowing the man to escape.

Turns out there are some things we don’t know about Officer Dixon. At home he’s a doting husband to his crazy hot wife Angela (Sharon Leal) and a doting father to their young daughter. At work he’s a crusading border patrol officer trying to track down a

killer while attempting to keep those troublesome ‘Minute Men’ style militias at bay. But before all this occurred in our man’s life, as we will learn, he used to be known as Mike ‘Maddog’ Dixon, one of the captains in brutal gang of street thugs who, after the encounter in the desert, have decided to pay Michael a visit. Led by the coolly violent Drake (Omari Hardwick), he has brought his HNG crew as they are calling themselves, as well as the fledgling HNG member they call Little Boy (Evan Ross) who Michael has a special affinity for, down south as they have some drugs being imported from Mexico. What great luck it is that a former member of theirs works for border patrol. Though Mike would rather pass on helping this incredibly affable and funny group of felons out, he realizes that through the threats made against his family that he has little choice. He also knows this group pretty damn well since he used to be one of them and that he and his family’s well being after the job comes off is not guaranteed. I don’t know about you, but it’s looking like a shootout just waiting to happen to me.

Directed by Kevin Bray ‘Linewatch’ is a different kind of action film in that it is far more methodical and pedestrian in its pace and actually takes the time to setup it’s narrative before letting the bullets the fly. Even the action sequences themselves are toned down which keeps the film from becoming a typical blow out shootemup, which could be a problem for you if that’s what you’re looking for. Instead what we have with ‘Linewatch’ is an action themed drama that tends to think a little more before it acts and places the emphasis of its story more into the hands of its characters than into blanks, blood squibs and explosions.

To assist the director in selling this story it does help to have a solid cast, of course led by Cuba Gooding Jr., who does a very credible job in making us believe in the duality that his character of Michael Dixon represents, though the story doesn’t go into detail on why he left the gang. In the absence of the reasons, which can be adequately theorized, it would have been nice to know how he managed to arrive at this particular point in his life and how he became a border patrol agent. Sharon Leal offers solid support as Dixon’s wife and gets better looking in each movie we see her in, but Omari Hardwick as Drake almost steals the movie right from under Gooding Jr. with his performance as the ‘too cool for words’ leader of the HNG. What HNG is an acronym for I’m not certain though I think I can guess what the N might represent. Hardwick brings presence, menace and charm to his character which also lightens the tone of the movie a bit, despite his means streak, particularly when contrasted with Gooding Jr.’s performance who’s pretty intensely pissed off for most of the film.

Not to say that ‘Linewatch’ is perfect as with most action films some of the elements tend to veer on the wrong side of logic and the script introduces some elements which seem like they may have relevance later on but are merely throw away plot points. One thing that was funny, and this is a major SPOILER so highlight if you care to read. At the end of the movie after Dixon has pretty much killed EVERYBODY, his boss played by Dean Norris shows up and takes out the final thug while looking at his rogue Border Patrol Officer and his bloody trail of mayhem. He reassuringly nods to Dixon and say’s ‘I got this’. He has this huh? I mean there are dead people ALL OVER New Mexico or wherever this movie takes place. Dead gang bangers, dead banditos, dead freedom fighters, dead serial killers… all dead. Not to mention the drugs and the fact that Dixon was driving his own car to transport the drugs, among other things. I wanted the movie to be ten minutes longer to see how his boss ‘got this’.

While not perfect I did find ‘Linewatch’ to be greatly entertaining and easily among the best Straight to DVD flicks I’ve seen in quite some time. All hail the new King, Cuba Gooding Jr!

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