Have I mentioned that I hate football? Usually I watch one football game each year…The Super Bowl, and I do that for the commercials. To me, football season is that deep dark time between the end of the World Series and the start of Spring Training. Today’s film, takes place almost entirely at a football game. But that doesn’t mean it already has 2 strikes against it (to use a baseball term). I’m open minded, I was willing to give it a chance. From 1976, it’s “Two-Minute Warning.”
It is the morning of the big championship football game. Not the Super Bowl, mind you…this is just some generic fictional football league’s championship. The place is Los Angeles, and the crowds are beginning to gather at the legendary Los Angeles Coliseum. The city is all a buzz with football fever, and we begin to meet some of the people who will be attending the game (in true disaster movie style). There’s the working class guy Mike Ramsey (Beau Bridges), who’s just lost his job but is bringing his wife and two boys to the game even though they can barely afford to buy hot dogs. There’s the older couple (David Janssen and Gena Rowlands) who have come all the way across country to see the game, despite their troubled relationship. We have Sandman (Jack Klugman) a gambler whose life depends on winning the bet he’s placed on this game. Seated next to him is a priest (Mitch Ryan), who got his ticket from his pal…the LA team’s quarterback. There’s even a pickpocket (Walter Pidgeon) making the most of the large crowd.
Meanwhile, as we cut in and out of these people arriving at the game, we see that there is trouble in the city. That morning, an individual has engaged in some sniper practice from a hotel window, using a poor cyclist for a target. We then get to watch as this person makes their way to the game…but we see it from their point of view. Yep, like looking out of his eyes. Truth be told…it’s kind of silly. Oh, and I forgot to mention…the mayor of LA and the Governor of California are at the game. Plus, it is a possibility that the President may show up. So, it’s no surprise when this guy takes up residence behind the stadium’s scoreboard.
Eventually, the presence of the sniper is detected thanks to a camera on a circling blimp. The boss of the stadium (Martin Balsam) now starts working with a grizzled police captain (Charlton Heston) and a trigger-happy SWAT team leader (John Cassavetes) as they try to stop the threat without alarming the crowd.
Do you know how much actual playing time there is in an average NFL football game? Venture a guess? It’s about 11 minutes. That’s part of why I like baseball so much more. Every time the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, anything can happen. There’s no such thing as running down the clock. This movie, essentially, runs down the clock. Nothing happens for the majority of the film. We spend a lot of time watching these characters that have nothing to do with the cops or shooter. As a viewer, we don’t invest anything in their stories, because we know the only reason the filmmakers are showing us these people is that they are eventually gonna get shot. That doesn’t even need a Spoiler Alert folks, it’s inevitable!
It also doesn’t help that there are no stakes here. We never get to know anything about the guy with the gun. We don’t know his motivation, we never even see his face until the end. Sure, we figure that he’s out to get one of the politicians attending, but even that is eliminated. The Governor and the Mayor are whisked out when the threat is discovered, and the President’s motorcade is steered away shortly after he arrives at the airport.
Believe it or not, I actually like the premise of “Two-Minute Warning.” There is a lot of potential in it, but none of it is realized. Remember I said I hate watching football? I would rather watch every football game on a given weekend (college and pro) before watching this boring movie again.