Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

In director James Cotten’s ‘The Line’, a movie that features about as many gifted actors as almost any movie ever, we are introduced to the character of Mark Shields played by the gifted Ray Liotta. Shields is a ‘get it done’ guy. You need somebody killed, silenced, removed from the picture and you need it to look a certain way, Shields is your guy to get it done. Today Shield’s is in Tijuana to remove hot headed drug kingpin Pelon (Esai Morales) from the scene. Pelon is taking over operations from his deathly ill but wise boss Salazar (Andy Garcia) who amidst some serious protestations from his crew has elevated Pelon to the top spot in his organization.

Chief among these whiners would be Salazar’s bastard son Diablo (Jordi Vilasuso) who is going through a lot of trouble to end Pelon’s life. As you can see Pelon has a lot of folks looking to kill him. Shield’s handlers want Pelon dead because apparently he is striking up a lucrative drug deal with some American hating Afghani terrorist, and while Salazar has advised his brash replacement that this is not a good idea, it’s all plans go ahead for Pelon. The only thing Salazar has requested of Pelon is that he go to church regularly and receive sage advice from the reluctant bishop Father Antonio (Armand Assante).

Our ‘get it done’ guy is suffering from his own set of issues. Wherever shields happens to be, there is this rather attractive woman who often materializes out of thin air next to him, not causing any particular trouble but we can assume that she is dead, and that Shields killed her with the details of this killing being initially fuzzy. Because of this, Shield’s is on some narcotics to help him get through the day. A hired killer on anti-depressants. Not the best combination. Also because of this, Shield’s focus probably isn’t what it should be and this could be why he has ended up knocked unconscious, robbed and beat within an inch of his life and probably would be dead if not for the largesse of the proverbial hooker with a heart of gold Oliva (Valerie Cruz). Shield’s good friend and spotter Wire (Kevin Gage) tried to point out to him this obvious lack of focus but he wasn’t listening to my man.

Eventually Shields will get back on his feet and attempt to finish the job he was hired to do, even though there are more shooters in the house to take out Pelon, in addition to Diablo’s crew of shooters who want to take down Pelon. Then, what at the time seemed to be a fairly straight forward story, turned into an unintelligible ball of confusion. I’m lost over here people.

La Linea, or ‘The Line’ is one wonderfully acted, one beautifully shot big old mess of a movie. There were so many things that were ‘right’ about this movie. Ray Liotta’s performance as the Zoloft addicted hitman was pitch perfect, his partner played by Kevin Gage as the fun loving but keenly observant colleague whose fate was unfortunately sealed pretty from the minute he showed on the scene was on point. Esai Morales might’ve had the best performance in the movie as the loose cannon drug lord, but he wasn’t as atypical as this type of character is usually presented to us, as he did give Pelon a method to his madness and some odd sense of honor behind those crazy eyes of his. I had a little bit of a problem with Valerie Cruz’s prostitute character, not so much her portrayal as this prostitute, but she did seem like she was just a little too hot, with those tight abs and that absolutely perfect figure to be a beat up, beat down, single mother drug addicted prostitute. Where in the world does this woman find the time to go to the gym, do her whore duties and do crack? And then there was her inclusion in the story in the first place which seemed added on as more as a means to an end as opposed to her character truly being necessary. Throw in some Joe Morton, a little Bruce Davidson and a lot of Danny Trejo and this is a film filled with a lot of talented people. I’m not even going to mention my low budget faves in Gary Daniels and Jason Connery who show up in this movie.

But something went awry. Either I missed something or it went way over my head or someone misplace an HD cassette or a reel of film because everything just went screwy. I’m not going to give away anything but I just didn’t get or understand exactly what happened in the end of this movie. And I’m talking about like the final three or four minutes. The movie was shaky and a little disjointed from jump and it did have some pacing issues that kept this flick from finding a decent rhythm but at least it was making perfect sense to me story wise. Then came the final frames which I guess was a twist, at least it seemed to be a twist of sorts, but it’s a twist that didn’t understand. The way that this movie ended really casts off to the side almost everything else that was going on in this movie. It raises way more unanswerable questions, questions which probably weren’t being asked in the first place if the movie had just cruised along the path it traveling. I didn’t get it. But then I’m not the brightest bulb in a box filled with dim bulbs.

It does look good, it is well acted, and the story was interesting for most of the movie. I just hope the filmmakers can track down that missing reel and finish this thing in a Director’s Cut or something.

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