A definite uncommon storyline here; a woman sees too much and must be rescued from the baddies who want her dead before she can testify. Wow. What a concept! If only more Hollywood writers concentrated on this kind of extraordinary feat of narrative.
Well, all that synicism aside, Narrow Margin does succeed as a story due to one fact; there is no hero cop named Jack who has to get her to trial while also solving his own burnt-out renegade problems. Instead, we have regular Joe Lawyer, Gene Hackman trying to save his own life as well as that of his plucky charge in Anne Archer. The action scenes are realistic (to most degrees) using real fear and the actual way a person unfamiliar with guns and violence would react. Life is taken seriously and if someone dies there’s no stupid and banal quip about ‘should have kept his head harharhar’ or ‘if only he hadn’t smoked harharhar’. And you have to appreciate that at least.
However, it’s not all good. There are some moments of incredibly poor continuity early in the film during a high-speed downhill-in-a-forest car chase that will be spotted by even the most lackadaisical of film viewers. So the film has it poorer form. Which adds to the other good ideas noted earlier to produce a slightly above average (like 2% at best) action thriller that will keep the unwary on the edge of their thighmaster.
I appreciated the natural and human element that made the film and story more real, but I was also disappointed by such foolish errors as the continuity issue. It seems almost unimaginable that someone (director Peter Hymans, I’m looking at you) could allow such a decent storyline such a poor description in the translation to film. Oh well. It’s still worth a look if you like them that way, but there’s also scope to play it for your nerdish friends at some lunchtime soiree and make fun of it.
Well, there’s no faulting the transfer perse. There are but faint occasional film artefacts and only some slight aliasing. The image is sharp and clean and the full 2.35:1 cinema aspect (with anamorphic solicitors) delivers the magnificent landscape shots of the Rockies and so forth in an exceptional manner. It’s almost worth it for these alone. Everything else looks fine with true blacks, good shadow detail and even colour throughout.
With this sort of older film all we seem to get is Dolby Digital stereo and here that is true. It does a fine job, however, and doesn’t let the film down at all. There are some moments of sound effects being lower than the dialogue and while this is fairly common and mildly annoying, it’s okay generally. Dialogue is sparse and sparing, generally letting the feeling of the story carry the plot along and this is truly appreciated; no one seems to do this anymore.
Music is fine and typically suspenseful. Bruce Broughton has created a nice resonant score replete with strings and a deep orchestral flavour that adds depth to the suspense and certainly helps carry the film through.
While not the greatest and most original of scripts, it is nonetheless a good angle on an old standby that carries itself forward at a good suspenseful pace. It’s just unfortunate that the editing and directing departments let the film down with some consistent and insulting continuity concerns. Worth it for fans of the genre or fans of Hackman (who is never bad in a film, let’s face it… it’s just unfortunate for collectors that he’s made so damn many of them). A mildly above average thriller that hosts some great performances and action sequences.