John Travolta (Pulp Fiction) is back in action this Winter. In tense new action thriller Life on the Line, Golden Globe winner and Hollywood icon leads a team racing to install miles of cable before a deadly lightning storm destroys the power grid, with disaster looming every step of the way. Also featuring Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct) and Kate Bosworth (Heist), the new film is a reminder of how good Travolta is in these type of roles. And to celebrate the upcoming release of Life on the Line, we look back at his finest action-packed roles…
Broken Arrow (1996)
In this highly entertaining ’90s action flick, Travolta was given the choice of playing the hero or villain. Going against his typical roles, he opted to play the villain, Major Vic Deakins. Broken Arrow is a fun cat and mouse tale that follows a rogue US Air Force pilot who has stolen nuclear missiles and his co-pilot pursuing him in a high-stakes chase. In order to prepare for the action scenes, Travolta and co-star Christian Slater trained with former boxing champion Carlos Palomino.
Just a year after Broken Arrow, Travolta again teamed up with legendary Hong Kong director John Woo for the incredibly popular Face/Off. Travolta is FBI agent Sean Archer, while Cage is terrorist Castor Troy. The characters adopt each other’s physical appearance in a hijacked science experiment and must survive on opposite sides, with Archer trying to catch up to his nemesis and prove his real identity. In the build-up to playing each other, Travolta and Cage spent two weeks together to learn gestures and vocal cadences. The film’s stylised and violent action scenes were praised, as were the fun performances of Travolta and Cage.
The Thin Red Line (1998)
Travolta featured as part of an ensemble cast in this critically acclaimed war epic, marking the return of Terence Malick after a twenty-year absence from filmmaking. The Thin Red Line is an adaptation of James Jones’ autobiographical novel focusing on the conflict at Guadalcanal during the second World War. The horrors of war form
a tight-knit group of soldiers, who begin to see little reason for war and fight merely for survival. The beautifully shot film was something of an instant classic and it is still rightly regarded as one of the best contemporary war films.
This enjoyable cyber action outing saw John Travolta top a stellar cast including Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Don Cheadle. Swordfish sees a convicted hacker hired by a counter-terrorist unit to help them hack a complex computer system. Travolta was initially reluctant to work on the film – turning down his role six times – but upon hearing the director’s take on the character he changed his mind. The film is loaded with testosterone and has become something of an underrated early 2000s guilty pleasure.
The Punisher (2004)
Travolta’s performance in this action packed Marvel adaptation saw him once again portray a ruthless villain. The violent revenge story follows Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, who becomes judge, jury and executioner on a mission to avenge his murdered family. The Punisher marked the second collaboration between Thomas Jane and Travolta following Face/Off. This version of The Punisher’s story wasn’t a smash hit but it was praised for its suitably dark and gritty take on the popular comic book character.
The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)
A remake of the classic 1974 film of the same name, Pelham 123 sees Travolta opposite Denzel Washington and once again taking the role of the antagonist. The story follows the hijacking of a New York City subway train and the stand-off as passengers are held hostage. In the original, the main villain, Ryder, was portrayed as a methodical criminal mastermind by Robert Shaw, whereas Travolta plays the character as violent and unpredictable with a trigger temper. The film is tense and well worth a watch.
I Am Wrath (2016)
Travolta reinforced his action credentials taking on the role of family man Stanley Hill in this recent action thriller. The movie follows Hill’s fight for justice after corrupt police officials fail to catch his wife’s killer. We follow Travolta’s character team up with an old friend to seek vigilante justice. According to his co-stars on this film Travolta is highly enthusiastic about fight scenes and embraces the physicality of performing action.
Life on the Line (2017)
Travolta’s latest sees him step into the working-class shoes of unsung heroes. This tense thriller follows a crew of men who do the high-wire work fixing the electrical grid and are hit by a sudden and deadly storm. In order to understand the dangerous process of working on the electrical lines, Travolta and his co-stars spent several days at a real training facility learning about the equipment, techniques and working with real-life linemen to immerse themselves in their characters. Life on the Line has electrifying action and Travolta back at his screen-dominating best.
Lionsgate UK releases Life on the Line on DVD & Digital 27th February 2017