Case Number 14787: Small Claims Court


Sony // 2008 // 90 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // October 21st, 2008

The Charge

On the border between the U.S. and Mexico, the law is what you make of it.

The Case

I respect Cuba Gooding Jr. as an actor, but I have an annoying problem: the larger his role in a film, the less I enjoy it. It usually has nothing to do with his performance, but I find that films where he plays a large role (What Dreams May Come, Snow Dogs) just aren't my cup of tea, whereas other films I love (American Gangster, As Good as it Gets) have only small moments of his brilliance. I mention this Linewatch is a perfect example of this problem: Cuba Gooding Jr. is excellent in the film, but that's about all it has going for it.

In Linewatch, Cuba plays Border Patrol Agent Michael Dixon. As the film opens, he and his partner discover a van full of dead illegal immigrants and go in search of the "coyote" who was leading them across before he left them for dead. Their search leads to a trailer and a shootout where Michael's partner is shot. During the ensuing chaos, Michael recognizes a friend from his past as a member of the High Noon Gang. It turns out that Michael has interfered with a HNG plot to bring contraband into the United States, and his former friends are going to hold his wife and daughter hostage unless Michael agrees to use his Border Patrol connections to clean up the mess he's made for the HNG.

There's nothing particularly wrong with Linewatch; it just borders on the utterly unremarkable. The whole "you can't leave the gang life" story is pretty tired, the Border Patrol aspects of the plot aren't explored sufficiently, and the action of the film doesn't happen often enough. However, it all hangs together pretty well. It's the kind of film that might suck you in on late-night cable when there's nothing else on. It's not quite a waste of time, but it brings absolutely nothing new to the table.

I have to commend Cuba Gooding Jr. for bringing his gravity to the role of Michael Dixon. He's equally convincing as both the by-the-book lawman and the off-the-hook gangster. The rest of the cast is competent, but no one stands out, especially in relation to the central performance. Certainly the HNG aren't helped by the "Thug 1" and "Thug 2" stereotypes they must inhabit, while Sharon Leal as Michael's wife isn't given much to do beyond look scared or look tough. Add to that the "tough commanding officer" in Dean Norris and you have very little new for the actors to do.

The DVD is a perfect match for the film. It's not bad, but not particularly good either. The 2.40:1 anamorphic transfer does a decent job with the look of the film, but there's a certain flatness in the visuals that feels like it could be better. The audio isn't given much to do, but it balances the dialogue and the gunplay pretty well. There's also a wealth of different languages available for audio selection, for those who need to see the film in Portuguese. I'm guessing the large audio selection played a part in the paltry selection of extras. All we get is a short documentary "Crossing Borders: Behind the Scenes of Linewatch," which covers the usual EPK-style production info.

Heaven knows I've sat through much worse films than Linewatch, but that's not much of a recommendation. The film's plot is unremarkable, even if the actors (especially Cuba Gooding Jr.) bring sincerity to their tired roles. If there's nothing else on TV or if all the other (better) action films were already checked out at the video store, Linewatch would make for decent viewing. Also, if you are a huge Cuba Gooding Jr. fan then this film is for you. Otherwise, steer clear.

Linewatch is guilty of being average.

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Scales of Justice
Judgment: 75

Perp Profile
Studio: Sony
Video Formats:
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)

* English
* Chinese
* French
* Korean
* Portuguese
* Spanish
* Thai

Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* "Crossing Borders: Behind the Scenes of Linewatch"

* IMDb