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Agent Horrigan
Clint Eastwood plays Secret Service Agent Frank Horrigan.
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'In the Line of Fire'

By Matt Slovick
WashingtonPost.com Staff

Forget about politicians or military personnel, this is about the people with the really cool jobs in Washington: Secret Service agents. They would take a bullet for the president (one actually has and lived). Frank Horrigan (Clint Eastwood) could have. He was on duty in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. He could have been in the line of fire (get it?). But when the first bullet hit John Kennedy, he didn't react.

Horrigan is now a dinosaur in the Secret Service. He spends most of his time undercover and has the dubious distinction of being the only active agent who lost a president. He encounters a new would-be assassin in Mitch Leary (John Malkovich), a former CIA assassin who calls himself "Booth." Horrigan gets put back on protective duty despite his age and, of course, gets involved with a younger female agent.

The brilliant but sick Leary, a master of disguise, plays a "game" with Horrigan. Leary is willing to die to kill the president; Horrigan is willing to die to save him. Malkovich puts on a creepy yet mesmerizing performance -- you don't want to mess with this guy, unless you're Clint.

The film not only has plenty of footage of government buildings and monuments (particularly the Lincoln Memorial), it has chase scenes through the streets and on the rooftops of the District.

Post Stories: Read reviews from the Style and Weekend sections, or a feature about the job of a Secret Service agent.

Washington Sites and Mentions: Washington Monument; Capitol; White House; Lincoln Memorial; the Reflecting Pool; Old Ebbitt Grill; The Treasury Building; Lafayette Square; Andrews Air Force Base; East Capitol and 2nd streets NE; California Street NW (between 18th and 19th streets).

It Wasn't Washington: Leary is traced to the St. Francis Hotel at Florida Avenue NE. No such hotel exists. The scene in the movie takes them to what appears to be an apartment building.

In the Line of Fire: Although many Secret Service agents have been shot while on duty, only one has actually taken a bullet for the president. Agent Tim McCarthy was shot as he shielded President Reagan with his body on March 30, 1981. John Hinckley fired six shots at Reagan outside the Washington Hilton Hotel. An agent was shot while guarding president-elect Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. On May 15, 1972, Arthur Bremer shot and paralyzed presidential candidate George Wallace at a shopping center in Laurel, Md. Three other people were also struck, including a Secret Service agent. The Secret Service and Secret Service Uniformed Division are always interested in qualified candidates.

It Couldn't Happen: Leary's use of a home-made plastic gun that isn't detected at a security check. The technology to make such a gun isn't quite there yet.

About the Film: Bob Snow, who retired in 1992 after 33 years as a Secret Service agent, was a consultant for this film. In one scene during a dinner at the French Embassy, Rene Russo, who plays agent Lilly Raines, wears a tight, black evening gown. Director Wolfgang Petersen was told that an agent, who carries a weapon, would not wear a dress like that. The director decided that since Rene Russo, a beautiful former model, would be wearing the dress, it would stay in the movie.

Memorable Scenes:

  • Any time Leary and Horrigan are on the phone.
  • Leary follows the bank teller home after lying to her about where he's from. He throws her roommate against the wall, punches the teller and breaks both their necks.
  • Frank follows Lilly into her hotel room. As they kiss and make their way to the bed, they start dropping their clothes and their gear -- guns, handcuffs, listening devices.
  • Leary slowly starts piecing together his hand-made gun under the dinner table (and drops a bullet) as the president shakes hands and walks toward Leary's table.

    Memorable Lines:

  • "This town is so confusing. There's Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts": Al D'Andrea to Frank Horrigan about the roads in Washington when he was late picking him up.
  • Frank Horrigan: "Oh, he'll call back. He's got panache" (pronounced incorrectly).
    Lilly Raines: "Panache?"
    Frank: "Yeah, it means flamboyance."
    Lilly: "I know what it means."
    Frank: "Really? I had to look it up."
  • "Wish I could have been there for you, pal": Horrigan to Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial.
  • "I was just wondering where you hide your firearm. Don't tell me. Let me guess": Horrigan to Raines, who was wearing a tight dress at a French Embassy dinner.

    Rating: R for language and violence.
    Release Date: 1993 (by Columbia).
    Running Time: 2 hours, 3 minutes.
    Director: Wolfgang Petersen
    Cast: Clint Eastwood (Frank Horrigan); John Malkovich (Mitch "Booth" Leary); Rene Russo (Lilly Raines); John Mahoney (Sam Campagna); Dylan McDermott (Al D'Andrea); Gary Cole (Bill Watts); Fred Dalton Thompson (Harry Sargent); Gregory Alan-Williams (Matt Wilder); Jim Curley (president); Sally Hughes (first lady); Clyde Kusatsu (Jack Okura); Patrika Darbo (Pam Magnus); John Heard (Professor Riger).
    Oscar Nominations: John Malkovich, best supporting actor; Anne V. Coates, best editing; Jeff Maguire, best original screenplay. The film made more than $102 million at the box office.

  • © 1996 The Washington Post Company

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