John Cusack cannot find a reasonable excuse for making a trite film about extremely unlikable
characters. If he tells you, "It seemed like a good script," do not listen to the man. He is lying.
Pushing Tin boasts a great cast, but it proves moot when the script ends up being
a roundabout romantic comedy about air traffic controllers. Cate Blanchett, Billy Bob Thorton, Angelina Jolie, and John Cusack
all must have seemed something new and exciting in the script that somehow disappeared after shooting began, because it ends
up being too close to just about everything else.
John Cusack singing over an airplanes radio to his astranged wife (Blanchett) is supposed
to be a quirky testament to his love for her. It's not. There's nothing special here. We've heard
men sing to there wives to make up for being a bad husband before and the fact that Cusack's character is characterisitically
self-absorbed enough to be endangering hundreds of lives (he sings while guiding the plane his wife is on to a landing) to
make up with his wife isn't sweet. Trust me.
It would have played better if Nick (Cusack) hadn't been so unlikable during
the movies entire duration. He's a cocky and arrogant loser who comes undone when the quiet Billy Bob
Thorton's Russell joins the air traffic control team and steals all his thunder a little too easily for his taste.
Then, because he's a jerk, Nick decides to act on temptation and cheat on his wife who hadn't
done anything close to deserving it with Russell's hot young wife, Mary (Jolie). That it didn't really mean anything
to Nick doesn't really make it any better.
Sometimes, an cocky, arrogant character can be a very effective protagonist (i.e. - Paul Newman
in The Hustler, Tom Cruise in Top Gun). Other times, as is the case with Pushing Tin, it
doesn't work. I couldn't like Nick. So when his life began to unravel, I couldn't really feel sorry for him.
I was expected to have the stock response of happiness when Nick and his wife reconciled (oops...SPOILER). Instead,
I really didn't care what happened.
Mike Newell is a capable director, as he showed with the excellent character piece Donnie
Brasco, but he can't save the film from its faults. The script is trite and hokey at times. Add to the mix
a band of characters that mean very little to the audience and you have a bad movie.
Yet, there are some unearned laughs that come at the expense of Nick. I enjoyed seeing
Russell utterally destroy him in just about every way. It was a hoot. When I say that's the only good quality
in the movie, there's something wrong.