‘On the Line’ (2022) Review: Change the Channel

mel gibson on the line

On the Line is a shoddy attempt at a “Phone Call Thriller.”

Movies like The Call (2013) and Buried (2010) have popularised the genre over the past decade, though they all spur about from the excellent Phone Booth (2002) directed by Joel Schumacher. While On the Line is leaps and bounds behind Phone Booth, its attempts to elicit that same reaction are, at times, admirable. And at times, laughable.

The film stars Mel Gibson as Elvis, a Los Angeles late-night radio host with a bad temper. When he’s not flinging profanities, he’s being a flat-out awful person to anyone he comes across. For anyone who’s watched a Mel Gibson movie over the last decade, this should be no surprise. Gibson gravitates towards roles where his character is often edgy, racist, anti-woke, and usually a grade-A asshole. This film is no different.

Elvis follows his usual routine of giving low-grade advice to any caller who calls up his show, On the Line. This routine is interrupted when an unbridled caller (Paul Spera) phones to tell Elvis he has broken into his home and taken his wife and daughter as hostages. The caller blames Elvis for the death of a former employee of the radio station, claiming she killed herself after many months of verbal abuse from Elvis.

The movie works best when Gibson is behind his mic trying to talk the mysterious caller out of doing something dangerous. Tensions are high, and drama is plentiful as Elvis pours sweat, knowing his family is in danger. He’s at the caller’s bidding. What will happen next? Unfortunately, the movie ditches the strong one-room setup and sends Elvis on a Die Hard-like scurry through the skyrise. There’s guns, there’s bombs, it’s all so overdone.

Missed opportunities are abundant here. Rather than build relationships and conflict between the caller and Elvis, we follow Elvis as he runs around the empty skyscraper doing generic thriller things. Also, the caller leaves much to be desired for how much his voice is heard over the many different headphones Elvis’ wears. It doesn’t bring the sinister evilness that we all want in our movie’s psychopaths; instead, it sounds like a person learning to do a Joker voice by watching clips of Gene Wilder. The biggest missed opportunity is the lack of audience interference in the film. The entire time we are told and shown that many people are listening to the show, which has been hijacked by a madman. Rather than call in to help Elvis or show up, it never becomes a factor in the final product.

On the Line is a low-rent thriller that often even falls short of its own shortcomings. Its unwillingness to stick with what works or its insufferable protagonist make it a film well worth skipping. The film even has the audacity to cap off with a bizarre twist ending that audiences are either going to love or hate. While it may be bold at times, it’s far from something memorable in a genre filled with exceptional voices.

Fun Fact:

Kevin Connelly was supposed to play Justin, but due to his first child arriving soon he recommended Kevin Dillon who got the role.

On the Line
'On the Line' falters with an overdone action sequence and fails to utilise its live audience concept, making it a forgettable addition to the genre.
Entertainment Value
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About author
Trenton Yeary is a graduate from Missouri State University with a Bachelor’s in Digital Film and Master's in Dramatic Writing. He’s recently moved to Los Angeles to pursue his love of film and popcorn. Deserted island movie collection: Any Brad Pitt movie or multiple copies of Rango (2011).


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