Top Line (1988)

Top Line

I first learned about Top Line from the cover of a poorly kept VHS I picked up in a flea market in Florida for $1… possibly a deal of 3 VHS movies for $1. I was quite frustrated to find the VHS did not work and the search was on to find a decent copy. Years went by without a whisper, however, I lapped up any information I could find. The idea of a Indiana Jones-esq adventure with Franco Nero was impossible not to get excited about. From time to time little mentions would popup in retrospectives and Youtube videos but the film was was pretty inaccessible.

With only excellent poster art to fuel my search I was elated to see Amazon Prime drop a copy of Top Line some time back, however, it was a pretty murky copy. Soon after a Blu-ray was announced by Cauldron and my excitement peaked. Top Line is a pretty interesting exercise in increasing silliness. I would guess, for the most part, the average audience member will be turning this off before they got half way through and it pains me to say that the movie does not get any better as it trundles along, this isn’t an obscure gem… but there are moments to enjoy.

Nero plays Angelo, a washed out writer who is struggling and has hit the bottle. His ex-wife and publisher cuts him off forcing him to find a new source of income. Picking up some trinkets and an ancient diary from his girlfriend’s brother Angelo enlists a pal to attempt to find a buyer on the black market, only for his friend to wind up dead. This throws Angelo into an adventure to find out why these treasures are so dangerous.

The opening of the movie is at a breakneck pace. There is a lot to set up and get going, characters to introduce and a world to establish. It’s pretty effective at doing this, if a little reckless. The film cuts from the scene of Nero discussing the black market with his friend to Nero standing over his friend’s dead body without even a transition, wipe or fade. However, the drunken trunk chase and the Alien Terminator finale go on and on.

The good? Well, Nero is perfectly engaging as our hero. Despite how silly things get, Nero stays on point. He is fun and throws himself into the action. Deborah Moore, credited here as Deborah Barrymore, also gives a decent performance as an attractive history student who helps Angelo. The ever reliable George Kennedy hams it up in a glorified cameo driving a great looking Gran Torino. Mary Stavin is the ex-wife and her transition into a gooey alien doesn’t challenge An American Werewolf in London’s creature effects, however, it isn’t too bad either.

The bad… there is a lot. The film is easily front loaded. It’s hard to believe that the impressive galleon set is in the same film as the atrocious Alien Terminator that appears during the climax. In fact, the film’s lacklustre climax questions if the production ran out of money and required a hasty rewrite. Stavin’s alien creature, whilst imaginatively constructed, is poorly puppeteered and it’s lengthy dialogue sequences is dreadfully unconvincing.

There is a story and Top Line does it’s best to tell it, it’s a convoluted effort that needs a ramble from Nero to put things together in the last few minutes. Moore has a few key scenes to connect things together and spell things out to the audience but the whole idea is more complex than it really needs to be. Top Line might get away with some of it sillier choices if it were a movie directed at kids, but it’s not. There is a bit of nudity at the start and a brief moment at the end when Miss De Havilland removed her dress. Most adults are not going to be impressed by the rest of the film.

Given some pretty competent action sequences early in the film, foot chases around the village, drunken truck chases and a chase through the cactus field, the film’s climatic sequence with the silly Alien Terminator pales in comparison. Whilst it’s still engaging, it would work better as a mid film attention-getter, rather than an exciting finale.

It’s worth mentioning that there are a couple of ingenious moments throughout that the writer need a pat on the back for. The aforementioned cactus fiend chase and a genuinely funny moment when Nero, a man who is always handing out his loose change to kids, is attempting to evade some pursuers in the town is set upon by an ever increasing collection of children wanting his spare change giving away his position.

Top Line is a mess and it’s a great shame as there are some great ideas early on for a spirited adventure before things take a ridiculous sci-fi turn in the last 20 minutes. Top Line really wants to please everyone, mixing Romancing the Stone, Indiana Jones, Terminator and They Live with a dash of Cocoon! It’s a tough film to endure and probably best left in to obscurity unless you are a Nero fan or want to check out Sir Roger Moore’s daughter in something ridiculous.

Original artwork is terrific… it amazes me that other artwork emerges that spoils it. The original artwork is completely inaccurate as to what to expect in the film. The UK Alien Terminator art includes some positive review comments in case there is a any doubt over the films quality… and content! The german release poster is obviously designed by someone who did not watch the movie, and only read the synopsis.

There is a gorgeous blu ray out there that is quite hard to find at a reasonable price.

Older DVD copies crop up from time to time, alongside a recommended duo set with Day of the Cobra (1980), another fun Nero outing.


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