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Cranky Critic® Reviews:

Pushing Tin

Starring John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett and Angelina Jolie
Screenplay by Glen and Les Charles
Directed by Mike Newell
website: www.foxmovies.com/pushingtin/

IN SHORT: Good for us grown-ups. [Rated [R]]

"Pushing tin" is the slang expression used by air traffic controllers to describe what they do for a living. Cranky can tell you, having grown-up in a house that was directly under one of the approaches to JFK International Airport in New York, that those men and women behind their radar scoops do a pretty good job. The last really big crash at JFK happened when I was in high school and that was from wind shear, not Controller error. It was also way longer ago that I care to admit. So if you're looking for big plane crashes from the movie called Pushing Tin, look elsewhere. The only things that crash in this very grown-up story are lives and relationships.

Boy, that makes this sound like a really heavy movie. It's not. Pushing Tin is perhaps one of the times where an ad campaign could read "from the creators of Donnie Brasco and Taxi and Cheers" and be a good reason to see the flick. Unlike by the book screenplays, where there's a "whammo" to mark the end of each of three movie acts, the first hour of Pushing Tin is a bedlam of overlapping dialog and character development as the film re-creates what air traffic controllers do. Top dog in this world is Nick "I'll be here all week" Falzone (John Cusack) who sings 50s style tunes, as a method of reducing stress, when his mic is turned off. Most of the his fellow slavers remain nameless faces (the big exception being Vickie Lewis' Tina who does competitive body building on the side. Lewis is also the sole femme in the tower, which doesn't hamper recognition) as we see 'em teeter on the emotional edge, blow off steam and bonding as family. When a leather clad biker controller named Russell Bell (Billy Bob Thornton) rides into town, well, think of any classic Western face off, and add some clever retorts as the King of the Hill competition builds.

Cranky admits that it may not be a pleasant thing to think of air traffic controllers as testosterone fueled jocks, but that's where we start. Russell totes a knock down gorgeous half his age wife (Angela Jolie), who has a fondness for Smirnoff and whose beauty wags the tongues of all the other married with children Long Island housewives. It isn't a jealousy thing. The wives themselves refer to their position in the potential alimony line ("she's a first wife," "she's a fourth," etc.). As for the guys, there is an unspoken role that regardless of the stress or booze or disrepair of your personal love life, you do not mess with fellow controller's wife. In this case Nick's equally lovely wife, Connie (Cate Blanchett) is ready to enforce that rule.

It is a credit to the writing skills of Glen and Les Charles that, for those of you who just read between the lines, that the information Cranky implies will not spoil this movie for you. In over five years of writing scripts for Taxi and Cheers the Charles' learned how to develop the characters, regardless of whether you've learned their names or not. They apply similar skills to the cast of Pushing Tin, and while the eventual resolution of the main conflict gets a little mushy for Cranky's taste, overall it's a good flick for those of us that have had some time to put our love lives through the wringer.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Pushing Tin, he would have paid...


Date flick level. There's a lot of good character work here, especially when Billy Bob Thornton gets up to sing in a local restaurant. That the crowd wants another song (he's partial to things like "Muskrat Love") has nothing to do with vocal stylings, which are painful. You'll just have to see it for yourselves.

The Cranky Critic® is a Registered Trademark of, and his website is  Copyright © 1995  -  2013 by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.