“The Whole Place Is A Kill Zone” — Two-Minute Warning

December 21, 2008

d. Larry Peerce

Thank the 70s for providing us with many great thrillers and disaster movies. Peerce’s Two-Minute Warning combines the two to provide a tense nail-biter that , even if the outcome is never in doubt, makes for a great movie.

Snipers Get the Best Seats

Snipers Get the Best Seats

Like a number of disaster movies at the time, this film is chock full of star presence. Charlton Heston plays the police chief who becomes embroiled in a lone sniper’s assassination plot that involves the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the championship game between LA and Baltimore. Heston’s dilemma is how to catch this sniper who has 90,000 potential victims under his scope. The setting serves as a great backdrop against which the other stars’ stories unfold.

Beau Bridges has taken his family to the ball game, Gena Rowlands plays the girlfriend of a used car salesman looking for commitment, Jack Klugman plays a gambler whose life is riding on the outcome of the game, Walter Pidgeon plays a pickpocket fleecing the crowd during the game, and John Cassavettes plays Button the S.W.A.T. team leader who butts heads with Heston but gets the job done. You even get cameos from Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford as announcers, and Merv Griffin singing the National Anthem.

And the S.W.A.T. team scenes are all executed with rigor and precision that you know their technical advisor got paid well. Their procedure behind the scenes as the game continues creates this amazing tension: will they get the sniper before he starts shooting?

And while the question hangs in the air as to the motivation of the sniper, it all really doesn’t matter once he lets the bullets fly climaxing in this amazing 90,000 person strong stampede and a white-knuckled stand-off between him and the S.W.A.T. team.

Heston and Cassavettes pour on the macho to great effect that had me rooting for them every time they came on screen. Their scenes together have great chemistry and I would have loved to see these guys in their prime in a buddy movie together. Also, Heston gets to fire his sidearm in a fantastic hero shot that would make any pacifist stand up and cheer for the justice he metes out.

Heston and Cassavettes, Buddies

Heston and Cassavettes, Buddies

So if you’re looking for a great thriller with the star power and mini-dramas of a disaster flick, this is a sure bet that will satisfy.

*** stars.

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