Movies & Videos
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar

    Related Item
'End of the Line'

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
May 04, 1988


Jay Russell
Wilford Brimley;
Levon Helm;
Kevin Bacon;
Bob Balaban;
Barbara Barrie;
Mary Steenburgen;
Holly Hunter;
Bruce McGill;
Howard Morris
Parental guidance suggested

Marketplace Online Shopping

Compare prices
for this movie

Find local video stores
WP yellowpages
More movie shopping

Save money with NextCard Visa

No wonder Arkansans were up in arms over the populist salute "End of the Line." It's hick bashing -- full of hound dawgs, dadgummits, greasy food and good ol' boys.

When Southland Corp. shuts down the train yard at Clifford, population 2,508, two old railway men steal a locomotive and head for Chicago to confront the chairman of the board. Wilford Brimley and ex-Band member Levon Helm are the small-town heroes who, armed with nothing but traditional American values, take on the city slickers.

Bob Balaban is their chief foe as the board chairman's slick son-in-law, who tries to turn their protest into a public relations campaign for Southland. He tempts Brimley and Helm with starring roles in Southland Air Freight commercials, but the boys refuse, bound and determined to save their jobs, the yard and the town of Clifford.

"End of the Line" is one of a slew of recent Depression-genre movies -- "The Milagro Beanfield War," "Stand and Deliver" and the farm flicks of a couple of years ago. They're set in America's pockets of poverty, but the scenario is unequivocally Capra. It's an easy form, but not easy enough for writer-director Jay Russell, a recent Columbia film school grad making his first film.

Russell's story is full of meaningless moments -- like the heroes going off to sleep in their various motel rooms -- that ought to have been trimmed to streamline this two-hour guilt trip. And does Russell ever lay it on thick. "God Bless America," says Helm in lieu of the Pledge of Allegiance he can no longer remember.

"I used to think that as long as there was a United States of America, there'd be a railroad in Arkansas that a man could work for," says Brimley, the decent, hard-working man betrayed by his homeland. And that's how it must seem to these railway men when Southland decides to abandon them. Unfortunately the corporation rationale is so compelling and the heroes so ludicrously naive, it's impossible to identify with the simplistic bumpkins. Helm is of the Gomer Pyle School and Brimley is working up to filling the capacious shoes of Walter Brennan.

The supporting cast includes executive producer Mary Steenburgen, effective as Helm's sassy beautician wife, and Barbara Barrie, pleasant in a negligible role as Brimley's wife. A peripheral, uninteresting romance involves Kevin Bacon, as a beer-swilling redneck, and Holly Hunter, in her pre-"Broadcast News" days, as Brimley's feisty daughter. Even though perfectly cast, Hunter seems too lively and real for this mythic community of golldarns.

No matter how you look at it, "End of the Line" comes up boxcars.

End of the Line, at the K-B Foundry, is rated PG.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

Back to the top

Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar