Two-Minute Warning is a pure 70’s action picture. It is filled with recognizable actors playing characters we have seen in countless movies, with scads of melodramatic subplots playing out in the stands of a Football game. Unbeknownst to them, their mini-dramas are nothing compared to the bigger-picture one playing out as the police race to stop a sniper bearing an automatic weapon who at any moment could open fire on the unsuspecting crowd of 91,000. Seems like L.A. cop Charlton Heston has his work cut out for him.
The picture may be from 1976 (and the haircuts and clothing solidify that), but the timing for this Shout Factory Blu-ray release could not have been more eerily timed given recent events in Orlando and elsewhere. Back in the 70’s, a mad gunman seemed outrageous, today it is sadly a common headline.
Two-Minute Warning may have a sniper, but it concerns itself more with the people in the stands – at least for the first hour. You have actors such as Gena Rowlands, Jack Klugman, Beau Bridges, Walter Pidgeon and David Janssen sorting out issues such as overdue debts to gamblers, pick-pocketing, a man who just cannot seem to commit to the woman who loves him, a guy hitting on a lovely woman right in front of her date and a family just trying to enjoy a football game. The game in question is Championship X (a thinly veiled Super Bowl that works around having to pay any dues to the NFL given the teams are simply referred to as Baltimore vs. Los Angeles) and not only are the mayor and several celebrities in attendance, but the governors of both Maryland and California with the President of the United States is scheduled to pop in for the second half. Hey, Merv Griffin sings the national anthem, so this must be a big deal.
Our armed antagonist has planted himself atop the scoreboard of the Los Angeles Coliseum after having shot a random citizen just taking a leisurely Sunday bike ride in the upscale area of Sunset Boulevard. He’s spotted by the TV crew which in turn puts police chief Charlton Heston, Coliseum security head Martin Balsam and S.W.A.T. officer Jon Cassavetes on high alert. How do you take out a sniper without A) sending him into a panic and open fire on the crowd and B) keeping a sold-out crowd calm. Spending well over an hour with plenty of first-person shots through the sniper scope as the sniper preps to do his worst, the cops scramble to neutralize the situation. This is where Two-Minute Warning fumbles the ball as the picture slows down to almost a crawl with not much happening. It isn’t until the final half hour that things go into overdrive – the two-minute warning of the picture as it were – and by then you’re either invested into what is to come or have long checked out.
Even during the slow periods (of which there are man), the picture makes some interesting creative choices especially in terms of the POV shots through the sniper-scope which start with the scope being raised into the frame, and most notably for the handling of the L.A.P.D. The L.A. police officers are not painted in the best of lights from the seemingly trigger-happy S.W.A.T. officers, to the brutal beating of a potential suspect by Cassavetes to the uniformed cops who detain Beau Bridges and treat him poorly even though he has just reported seeing the sniper.
Given that this is a Shout Factory release, both the disc and film get some proper love. While the print is not perfect reference quality per say, it is still outstanding given the material as are the extras which include radio spots, the trailer and an extensive interview with director Larry Peerce. But the real gem is the addition of a three-hour television cut that was made after the fact, without the assistance of Larry Peerce (a revelation from the interview extra), that cut down on the violence and fleshed out the story of the gunman. It’s presented in standard def pan-and-scan, but still something extra for the completists who eat up this sort of bonus material.
Whether 70’s disaster movies are for you you, you can always leave it to Shout Factory to make the most out of the release, no matter what the content.
Release Date: June 28, 2016
1 Disc; Running Time: 115 minutes; R
2.35:1; Region: A