Thursday, December 13, 2012

Two-Minute Warning (1976)

          The premise of Two-Minute Warning couldn’t be more appealing for fans of cheesy ’70s blockbusters: A sniper takes a position in the clock tower of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum during a crowded football game, so cops led by Captain Peter Holly (Charlton Heston) must take the sniper out. Chuck Heston versus a psycho against a backdrop of tragic melodrama—pass the popcorn! Unfortunately, the title of Two-Minute Warning is itself a warning (to viewers), since virtually nothing exciting happens until the last two minutes of the game that provides the film’s narrative structure. Most of the movie comprises a long slog of “character development” in the superficial disaster-movie style, meaning Two-Minute Warning is nearly all foreplay with very little payoff.
          That said, if you dive into the movie aware that it’s a slow burn, the combination of enterprising location photography and enthusiastic performances might be enough to keep you interested. The main relationship in the movie is between Captain Holly, who spends most of his time watching the sniper through a video feed originating in the Goodyear Blimp (!), and hotshot SWAT team commander Chris Button (John Cassavetes). Holly wants to remove the sniper without gunplay, whereas Button is itching for a shootout. Watching these alpha males clash provides a smidgen of macho entertainment, though one wishes the filmmakers had found a way to make their conflict more dynamic. The lack of strong leading characters lets supporting players run away with the picture. Brock Peters stands out as a Coliseum maintenance man who tries to be a hero, and Beau Bridges has some sorta-affecting moments as an unemployed dad fighting with his wife and kids in the stands, unaware of the danger lurking behind the end zone.
          Two-Minute Warning hews so closely to the disaster-movie paradigm that the story also includes an aging pickpocket (Walter Pidgeon), a football-loving priest (Mitchell Ryan), and a bickering couple (played by David Janssen and Gena Rowlands). Yes, it’s the old “Who’s going to live, who’s going to die?” drill. Director Larry Peerce rounded out the cast with his then-wife, Marilyn Hassett, the star of his maudlin The Other Side of the Mountain movies, although casting his missus appears to be as close as he got to emotionally investing in this trifling potboiler. Since the Coliseum figured prominently in ’70s pop culture (it was used for Heaven Can Wait, North Dallas Forty, and innumerable TV episodes), the venue provides as comforting a presence as any of the name-brand actors, and Peerce shoots the location well. Overall, however, Two-Minute Warning is a missed opportunity given all the possibilities suggested by the premise. Fumble!

Two-Minute Warning: FUNKY

1 comment:

Tommy Ross said...

Yep, you said it! Fully agree, this had all the right ingredients to be something cool but just flat out missed the mark.