On the Line (2022) Courtesy of Saban Films. All Rights Reserved.
Drama/Thriller | Saban Films | 104m | Rated: R
Written & Directed By: Romuald Boulanger
Starring: Mel Gibson, William Moseley, Alia Seror-O’Neill, Kevin Dillon, Yoli Fuller, John Robinson, Nadia Farès
Synopsis: During a normal night hosting his late-night radio show, a caller reveals he has taken the host’s family and will kill them all unless he completes a series of demands.
On the Line will be a divisive film for many people depending on their expectations. Going into this one I was expecting a relatively straight-forward thriller with an aging Mel Gibson in the lead, and for the most part that’s exactly what it provided. The pacing of the middle act lingers a bit. It does deplete some of the intrigue while watching, rather than continually ramping up. But it gets going quickly out of the gate with Gibson playing Elvis Cooney, a veteran radio host. He carries a natural rapport with his co-workers, and all seems normal. But that quickly changes when a listener calls in claiming to have Cooney’s family held captive. This quickly dials up the tension, the curiosity, and the appeal as Cooney cautiously negotiates with this caller who gets things going with his deliberately tormenting demands. Resulting in spots of juicy interwork drama.
This is where we learn a bit more of the backdrop to Cooney. A few of his past actions on the job are revealed which slowly fuels the motivation of this caller, as well as seeding the mystery of who this person is. So overall, for its swift runtime, On the Line does provide an adequate level of enjoyably ominous suspense and modest amounts of mystery. It’s a movie that can lure you in without having to put in much thought. You can easily sit down, gravitate to Gibson’s performance, and take the ride. Gibson is the lead of this movie. He doesn’t simply pop in for a couple scenes, and to be honest it was fun getting to see him put some effort into a role with more emotion instead of his usual raspy tough guy bravado.
The story takes place during a single night which creates a slightly unnerving undertone to it all. The radio station building is a capable playground for everything. And with a capable albeit generic collection of characters you can easily get pulled into the emotionally charged situations this caller puts them all through. There are noticeable plot conveniences, yet nothing that really gets in the way. And overall, the development of this central mystery delivers more positives than it does negatives. The final fifteen-minutes on the other hand, will be make or break for some. The plot progression does deliver some surprises and modest spots of misdirection but the finale flips everything on its head.
Some may find this twist a bit convoluted, and admittedly it is. But it’s also not so far from reality that you can’t appreciate it for doing something new. This is where On the Line will be divisive. I think this ending actually makes the movie leading up to it a bit better. It’s able to account for some of the flaws in the story earlier on and I think it’s much more effective in generating thought after watching than something more traditional. So, in the end, I recommend On the Line if you want to see flashes of past-Gibson diving into a character, in a story that provides more than enough entertaining suspense.