Pushing Tin
*** GM
Starring: John Cusack, Cate Blanchett, Billy Bob Thornton, Angelina Jolie, Matt Ross, Kurt Fuller, Vicki Lewis

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I knew going into this film that the cast was going to make it worth watching - John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett and Angelina Jolie are all people I've taken a shining to over the past few years. Take this crew, throw in a handful of cool guys like Matt Ross and Kurt Fuller, put them in a setting you never see films about, and give them all REAL characters, and you've got yourself a winner.

Nick "The Zone" Falzone (Cusack) is the rootin'est, tootin'est air traffic controller this side o' the Mississipp' - New York, to be precise - and he's a bit of a jerk. Overbearing, arrogant, occasional philanderer, etc., but he's got that John Cusack charm working for him, and that usually balances everything out. He's married to repressed housewife Connie (Blanchett - a startlingly good contrast to "Elizabeth"), who takes care of their two kids (thankfully not dwelled upon much - I have a low tolerance for kids in movies, and I'm not sure why) and takes an art class to try to feel somewhat fulfilled. Nick loves his hectic, aggravated lifestyle until Russell Bell (Thornton) and his buxom wife Mary (Jolie) blow into town and continually one-up him, all the while acting peculiar and not saying much. That's a big problem for Nick, since he talks all the time and can't fathom why Bell would not even bother to gloat after showing him up. A rivalry forms, flares up to ridiculous male ego proportions and makes life hell for the both of them.

The dialog is quick - heck, the entire movie has to be pretty fast-paced to paint an effective picture of the frazzled nerves that result from a job like this. These characters feel very real, they have their own schticks, lingo and traditions that don't need to be spelled out to the audience to make them understood. Nick's relationship with minor characters - including the day shift guy he only sees once in a while and certain pilots he has to talk to - are well established in only a couple of small exchanges, and that's a sign of a good script.

There is the odd casting of NewsRadio's Vicki Lewis as a body-building babe (she's in great shape, but she's dwarfed by the other two contestants in her little talent show) and the too-often-to-be-happenstance shots of her upper torso in the background during scope-watching scenes, not to mention the fact that a good deal of her dialog seemed mumbled - or perhaps it was just too fast for my dumb ass to catch.

Other than that, though, the movie's enjoyable, involving, funny and intense. Good combination.

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