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Viewer’s Collection – Week 2 of Ricky’s Picks: “Pushing Tin” (1999)

April 11, 2012

We continue our Viewer’s Collection, The Ricky Coker Edition, with a left out of field pick, “Pushing Tin”. It’s a movie that I’ve somehow skipped for thirteen years now. I don’t remember it being released or it’s overall plot. So, when Ricky gave me his list of four films to review, the one I was most excited for was “Pushing Tin”. If ANYONE knows Ricky, him suggesting a movie for me to review that I’ve NEVER seen, and is NOT a shoot ’em up action picture, is a shocking revelation to say the least. Did I mention Ricky’s a die-hard Michael Bay fan? Nevermind that now, let us dive into “Pushing Tin”.

British director, Mike Newell, of “Four Weddings & A Funeral” fame, directs this mid-life crisis dark comedy, which isn’t that much of a stretch when it comes down to his earlier works backing him up. John Cusack, Billy Bob Thorton, Cate Blanchette, and Angelina Jolie all star together, which even for 1999 standards is a well-rounded cast of actors. I’m a Cusack fan for starters, so it’s always enjoyable to watch John be that cool cat we’ve come to know and love for nearly three decades. However, I’m not much of a Billy Bob fan, and in this movie he sort of plays himself. Very mysterioso, words of wisdome every which way, and knows that he is the ‘zone’, which ironically enough made me enjoy his presence in this film.

Nick Falzone (Cusack) and his boys work the hotspot of air traffic control in New York. These guys are impressed with themselves on a daily basis. They thrive on the no-room-for-error, fast-paced job and let it infect their lives. The undisputed king of pushing tin if you will, “The Zone” Falzone, rules his workplace and his wedded life with the same short-attention span that gets planes where they need to be in the nick of time. That is, until Russell Bell (Thorton), a new transfer with a reputation for recklessness but a record of pure perfection shatters the tensely-held status quo. The game of wits, brains, and talents begins between the two flies so high as it leads Nick into Russell’s bed with his wife (Jolie). Nick’s sanity is slowly slipping just as fast as his hold on #1, Nick must now find a way to regain his sanity and repair his marriage before he breaks down completely.

I think what I liked most about this movie was it took very different approaches to the same old story, while still keeping it balanced with the familiarity of it all, giving you that traditional end result. Nick cheats on his wife, that’s a given. Russ’ wife, Mary, inadvertently confronts Russ about the situation. Now, you’d think that this would lead to the end all revenge plot where, Russ gets back at Nick and destroys the very core of him, well he does and he doesn’t. He accepts the fact that this was a wake-up call for his marriage and it’s by time that he made a change in himself to make sure it never happens again. He tells this to Nick calmly, but of course…Nick slept with his wife, and when your a man it’s not ok. So, Russ plants a paranoid thought into Nick’s mind leading down a sprial of truths unfolding, leading to Nick’s ultimate breakdown. The movie’s head games approach is a lot more clever that it gets credit for.

“Pushing Tin” didn’t recieve such critical praise, back in the day, but I have a feeling that if critics and filmgoers alike revisit this movie in a post-9/11 world, I think the perspective of the movie begins to change. Since the movie revolves around NY, and air-traffic controlling, there are these subtle dark hints of events to come, it’s almost scary how these cinematic threats used for humor or the driving point for the story, makes you feel all these emotions of melancholy. I guarantee that for people who’ve already seen this film and didn’t care for it when it came out, rewatch it today will look at it in a different light. Aside from all that, it does become hokey during the last act, and perhaps the movie could’ve been shorter than it’s entital two hour runtime, but for it is, I found it to be a delight of a film, and probably one of the strongest film choices comeing from Ricky Coker. AGAIN, if you only knew him…

Do you have any memories about this film? Do you agree or disagree with my take? Please, respond to me at



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