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Lily Raines: What makes you think he'll call again?
Frank Horrigan: Oh, he'll call again. He's got, uh, "panache."
Horrigan: Yeah, it means flamboyance.
Raines: Mm, I know what it means.
Horrigan: Really? I had to look it up.
In the Line of Fire is a 1993 Psychological Thriller about a Secret Service agent named Frank Horrigan, played by Clint Eastwood, trying to stop a potential assassin (John Malkovich) who has contacted him, giving him advance notice that he plans to kill the President of the United States. So begins a cat-and-mouse chase as the assassin drops hints to taunt and torment Horrigan, whose history (on detail at the time of the Kennedy assassination) he knows perfectly well. The advertising for the movie made explicit reference to the fact that it was released 30 years after the Kennedy assassination. Also stars Rene Russo as Horrigan's partner.
Notable for being Eastwood's last role in which he wasn't also directing. Also notable for the extensive consultation done with the Secret Service in order to achieve realism -- this had not been done before in Hollywood.
Contains examples of:
- Asshole Victim:
- The two hunters Leary shoots.
- After spending the whole film getting in the way of Frank’s attempts to track down Leary and generally behaving like a Jerkass, it’s impossible to feel sorry for Billy Watts when Leary shoots him.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Leary.
- Anyone Can Die: Al and Watts.
- Batman Cold Open: Busting counterfeiters at the beginning of the movie.
- Fridge Brilliance That's what the Secret Service spend most of their time doing.
- Bit Part Badguys: The aforementioned counterfeiters.
- Brick Joke: "I know things about pigeons, Lily."
- Bulletproof Vest: How Horrigan survives taking a bullet from Leary for the President. Leary thinks this is cheating.
- Chekhov's Gun: "Ukelele" [sic] helps solve the riddle of "Skellum".
- "Sometimes people die just because they're from Minneapolis."
- CIA Evil, Secret Service Good: It is explained that Leary is so Dangerously Genre Savvy because he used to be a CIA assassin.
- Counterfeit Cash: Frank and Al bust one in the intro.
- Creepy Monotone: Leary borders on one.
- Criminal Mind Games
- Deadpan Snarker: Frank, especially towards the end.
- Dead Sidekick: Al.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Watts is abruptly shot dead by Leary after his attempt on the President’s life fails.
- Don't Make Me Destroy You: Leary has no real intention to harm Frank, even though he clearly enjoys toying with him. He warns Frank not to get "too" close though, or he'll have to kill him.
- Dress Hits Floor: Gracefully subverted. When Frank and Lily end in the room together the floor is hit with handcuffs, pistols, holsters, badges etc. Complete with rather loud thumps.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: "Do you know how easily I could kill you Frank? ... So you show me some GODDAMN RESPECT!"
- Evil-Detecting Dog: Pam's dog, who knows something's not right about "James Carney".
- Evil Genius: Leary.
- For the Evulz: Leary plans to kill himself anyway after his assassination. He wasn't really trying to make any political change so much as go down in a blaze of notoriety.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted - Leary suggests that Frank wasn't prepared to make one for Kennedy in 1963. See also Taking the Bullet below.
- If You're So Evil Eat This Kitten: The counterfeiters at the start of the film ask the undercover Frank to shoot his partner, who they know to be a cop, to prove that he's not one too.
- IKEA Weaponry: Leary's assassination weapon is composed of several pieces of plastic, that he then assembles after getting the harmless looking items past the security checkpoints. The bullet is real: he hides it in a rabbit's foot keychain that gets past the metal detector because he can put it in the key tray.
- The prop was destroyed following filming out of concerns it could be used for the purposes shown in the film.
- Ironic Echo:
- "Take my hand. If you don't, you'll die."
- "I guess I overreacted again, Harry".
- It's Personal: Why Frank wants to be part of the President's protective detail, and why his bosses are initially reluctant to let him do so.
- Well, to be fair, they're also reluctant because he's much, much older than is really optimal for such a physically demanding assignment.
- Jerkass: Billy Watts is arrogant and disregards Frank’s well placed paranoia about Leary, even after discovering Leary is an Template:Spoiled. He also just seems to generally have it out for Frank.
- Kick the Dog: Leary kills Frank's nice-guy partner Al, though he's quick to justify it as self-defense.
- Master of Disguise: Leary.
- Meaningful Name: "Call me Booth."
- Metal Detector Checkpoint
- Multitasked Conversation: At the climax, Frank hears over his hidden earpiece that the snipers can't get a clear shot on Leary, who has him on the ground at gunpoint. Frank challenges Leary to shoot, he doesn't care, and Leary doesn't catch on until Frank adds, "One more thing: Aim high."
- No Name Given: the President of the United States is only referred to as "the President" or by his Secret Service-given codename "Traveler". The First Lady is also unnamed.
- Not So Different: Invoked several times by Leary in his conversations with Frank, but ultimately subverted. As far as Frank's concerned, he was just doing his job all along, and when he gets home he doesn't even bother to wait around and listen to Leary's post-mortem answerphone message, walking out the door with Lily even as Leary begins talking about how he's doomed to die alone.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: Harry Sargent and Watts.
- Oh Crap: Leary's reaction when Pam is from Minneapolis, where he is pretending to be from, and asks him where he went to high school. Though he plays it relatively cool and probably would have avoided suspicion, the mere thought that he might have made an impression on her as a phony makes him decide to kill her.
- Retirony: First, Al mentions his wife and child in his first scene. Then, after a harrowing shoot-out, he wonders if he has what is takes to be an agent (it seems he's a rookie). If this isn't a tip-off that the poor guy's gonna die, his teary-eyed decision to resign (which Frank talks him out of) should clinch it.
- Roof Hopping
- Sacrificial Lamb: Leary’s murder of Pam Magnus and Sally shows how far he is prepared to go.
- Sacrificial Lion: Al.
- See the Whites of Their Eyes: Horrigan mentions this when explaining why he doesn't wear sunglasses on detail.
- Sarcasm Mode: "Did you think of that all by yourself?"
- Scare Chord: Accompanies several of Leary's appearances, especially towards the end of the film.
- Shout-Out: During one of the President's campaign stops, the band plays the theme from Monty Python's Flying Circus. (Probably not meant as a shout out to Monty Python considering the nature of the film. That tune is a John Phillip Sousa march called "The Liberty Bell" which could very likely be played at a political event such as this.)
- Shown Their Work: For the first time in Hollywood history, there was extensive consultation with the Secret Service to make sure that their portrayal was realistic.
- Suck My Gun: Leary on the roof. Also counts as a Throw It In, as Malkovich improvised it on the spot.
- Stay in the Kitchen: Horrigan passes several sexist comments about agent Raines, as she is the first female Secret Service agent he has worked with.
- Take My Hand: Leary to Frank, then later Frank to Leary with an Ironic Echo.
- Taking the Bullet: Frank. Leary suggests that wearing a bulletproof vest was kind of cheating.
- The Call Knows Where You Live: Leary first contacts Frank by ringing him at home.
- The Chessmaster: Leary.
- Time Compression Montage
- Token Romance: The subplot of Horrigan and Raines's relationship does seem a little shoehorned in.
- Tranquil Fury: Leary. He only really loses his cool once.
- Villain Ball: Leary's non-sequitur that "sometime people die just because they're from Minneapolis" ends up being critical information.
- Who Shot JFK?: Averted. The details of the assassination are not called into question.