A nightmare of fear and panic unfolds in this chilling tale of a lone gunman who sets his sights on a sellout crowd at a championship football game. Charlton Heston is the police captain who leads the desperate fight to stop the madman – perched high atop the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – before he sets off widespread devastation in the jam-packed stadium. John Cassavetes and Martin Balsam are among those risking their lives to thwart the sniper's attempts, while innocent spectators Gena Rowlands, Jack Klugman, Beau Bridges, Walter Pidgeon, David Janssen and thousands of others try to hide from the fatal gun attack and avoid the deadly ensuing stampede.
In the disaster epic, TWO-MINUTE WARNING, thousands from all over the country have gathered at Los Angeles' Memorial Colosseum to watch the "Championship X", Football showdown between Los Angeles and Baltimore. It's the biggest game of the year, which would see aging Quarterback Charlie Tyler at the helm for the Baltimore team. Everyone that has come to the game expects to see a spirited match up, and have some fun. However, little do they know, that the stadium would soon become a kill zone. Because a lone sniper has positioned himself atop the Colosseum's scoreboard, and he's armed with a powerful rifle. When a Goodyear blimp's camera captures video of the gunman, those behind the scenes, including the stadium manager, Sam McKeever are sent into a panic. This is when Police Captain Peter Holly is called in. Unfortunately, the position of the shooter makes it difficult to take him down in a manner that is not hostile. So, eventually, SWAT team Sargeant Chris Button, and his men are called in. Both Holly and Button work out a plan. Holly wants to take the shooter down quietly, while Button, naturally wants to use more force. Holly soon agrees to let Button and his team go in, should they not apprehend the shooter by the game's two-minute warning break. That moment does arrive, and that is unfortunately, when the gunman opens fire, causing even further mass panic and hysteria.
Personally over the years, I have seen a number of the disater films form the '70s and 80s, however, this 1976 film, TWO-MINUTE WARNING was one that I had never heard of, much less seen. But none the less, I was intrigued to see it, while noting its great cast. A cast that includes; Charlton Heston, John Cassavetes, Jack Klugman, Breau Bridges, Gena Rowlands, and others.
As a film, TWO-MINUTE WARNING, although based on a novel, is comparable to other mass shooting films such as Peter Bogdanovich's TARGETS or the Kurt Russel starrer, THE DEADLY TOWER. More closely similar to the latter. However, with that said, those similar films had a little bit more character build, when it comes to the killer. TWO-MINUTE WARNING does well for itself, however, by providing less information about its killer. I really liked the idea of us, the viewer not knowing much about the killer, especially when it comes to the reason for his actions. We don't know much about this guy, or why he is doing what he's doing. At the beginning of the film, we see him senselessly gun down a man from his hotel balcony, simply for practice, before he reaches his final destination - the crowded Football stadium. The approach to the shooter, in my opinion could not have been handled any better. We never see him in full, as most of the shots involving him are from his point of view. We only see things such as his hands, his eyes, and so on, up until the end, and even then. we barely see enough of his face to know him. Many critics over the years has criticized the film for not telling us who this guy is in the theatrical cut(it does so in the Television broadcast cut to an extent, I hear), but I personally feel that it was for the best. The mystique just adds further to the suspense in my opinion. The film was also criticized for having thin characters and gratuitous on-screen violence. Maybe at the time of its release in 1976, the violence was rightly a bit much. But at the present time, on the heels of several real life shootings. the violence of TWO-MINUTE WARNING, doesn't feel so far off. I felt that TWO-MINUTE WARNING accurately displayed a moment of sudden hysteria. And while the characters may not have an abundant amount of depth to them, their pre-story buildups/back-stories, give us just enough in order to be familiar with them.
Among the characters, there's the recently laid off family man(Beau Bridges) and his family, an argumentative couple(David Janssen and Gena Rowlands), a gambler(Jack Klugman), a Pickpocket(Walter Pidgeon), a Baltimore Quarterback(former Football star, Joe Kapp), and his friend, a Catholic Priest(Mitchell Ryan), as well as the stadium manager(Martin Balsam). And then there is also the 2 sides of law enforcement. While Charlton Heston fronts the Police,John Cassavetes, portrays the head of SWAT. On another note - I also got a kick out of seeing Director Andy Sidaris as the TV Director. He was actually a TV Director for "Wide World of Sports", before he went on to direct for than a dozen sexploitation flicks - so, it makes sense.
Over the course of TWO-MINUTE WARNING's extensive 115 minutes, we see these characters in a number of situations, before they are caught within the shooter's crosshairs. Yes, some of these characters we feel for more than others, especially when they are killed. Yes, some can complain about this, and that, when it comes to the character development of TWO-MINUTE WARNING, but in a film such as this one, what do the naysayers believe should have been differently? If deep character back-stories were developed for everyone as they seem to suggest had been done, the film would have bordered on being 4 hours in length. That would have been exhaustive. As is, while the film does still run a little long, it has a good build up to the action seen during the game's two-minute warning. To me, it was worth the wait, as there is a good amount of action thereafter. Some of it even being unexpected.
Overall, I enjoyed this film for what it is. And what TWO-MINUTE WARNING is, is a "disaster epic", as I said above. Though it was released Theatrically, its feel does say TV movie. However, with its excessive, and descriptive portrayal of violence, it's easy to see why the film went theatrical with an R rating attached.
The Blu-Ray release from SHOUT! FACTORY, presents the film quite nicely, via a crisp, clean print. Though the color palate does give a hint as to the film's age, everything is nice and balanced, and that is also true for the film's sound. As for the bonus features, this release includes the 141 minute TV cut of the film in standard definition, full frame presentation(including additionally shot story footage, while at the same time, deleting some of the theatrical cut's violence). There is a great interview with the film's Director, radio spots, a still gallery, and of course, the film's theatrical trailer.
IMPRESSION OF THE FILM
While TWO-MINUTE WARNING is marketed as a disaster film, it is less a disaster flick, and more along the lines of a true crime film. The threat of the film, is a lone gunman as he plans to carry out an attack. The suspense of the film is the result, as a group of characters hoping to make it out of the crowded stadium alive. I liked this film. However, with that said, there isn't anything within that makes it stand out from other like films. If you enjoy films such as AIRPORT and SKYJACKED(both starring Charlton Heston), then chances are, you will like this one as well, as it feels very familiar.
Special Features include
- NEW Interview With Director Larry Peerce
- Network Television Broadcast Version (Standard Definition – 141 minutes)
- Still Gallery
- Radio Spots
- Theatrical Trailer
This film will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD on June 28, 2016