ICYMI: Live Wire (1992)
It’s a cliché, but timing is everything. Just ask Pierce Brosnan. In 1986, after a successful run on the detective series Remington Steele, he was set to take on the most prestigious of film roles as James Bond. Sadly or fortunately (depending on your take), producers wouldn’t let Brosnan out of his contract when the show received an unlikely reprieve from cancellation. James Bond was subsequently re-cast with Timothy Dalton, and Brosnan would bide his time for another opportune moment.
Before finally getting the more concrete agreement to take over the reins of 007 in 1994, Bronsnan kept himself busy. After Remington Steele’s disappointing and short-sighted final season, he moved on to film fare like 1987’s tense Cold War thriller The Fourth Protocol, his first box office hit in 1992’s The Lawnmower Man and even more recognition playing Robin Williams’ romantic foil in 1993’s blockbuster comedy Mrs. Doubtfire. Brosnan was certainly not lacking opportunities.
What you may have missed was easily his goofiest (though not intentionally) outing in the 1992 flick Live Wire. From director Christian Duguay (Screamers, The Assignment, The Art of War) comes this slightly inventive thriller that is more enjoyable the less you think about it. Thankfully, the casting of Pierce Brosnan provides more than enough gravitas and maybe just a slight glimmer of the athleticism and charm he would bring to the world of James Bond.
Brosnan stars as Danny O’Neill, an FBI agent who specializes in explosives and bomb disposal. As the film begins, he’s moonlighting for the LAPD when a damsel gets stuck in traffic with a few pounds of C4 beneath her seat. Thanks to O’Neill’s quick timing, the day is saved. The fact that this rescued woman shows up again at the film’s coda is just one of the film’s charms.
O’Neill is recently separated from his wife, Terry (Lisa Eilbacher), unable to properly cope with the loss of their child in a pool accident. Their paths become unavoidably entangled since Terry just happens to work for US Senator Frank Traveres (brought to oily existence by Ron Silver), who is receiving death threats. The fact that Traveres is trying to make time with Danny’s estranged wife is just par for the course.
But then things truly explode with the introduction of Ben Cross as international terrorist Mikhail Rashid. In a career full of scene-chewing villains, Cross gives Live Wire much enjoyed energy as a blood-thirsty mercenary who has found a way to weaponize water. That’s right, explosive H2O. It is the perfect weapon since above all else it uses the human body as a detonator and leaves no trace behind. Like I said earlier, the less you think, the more you will enjoy the movie.
Along the way, O’Neill has a few close calls which includes a “hotheaded” clown at a fair and the killing of a federal judge. The scene in the courtroom should come as no surprise once you notice the use of inexplicable glass barriers. But everything leads up to the ingenious finale. O’Neill must protect Traveres in his palatial home from Rashid and his goons. What ensues is an extended sequence that is MacGyver meets Home Alone, with O’Neill using his wits and numerous households products to survive.
Live Wire is definitely a product of its era. The early 90’s saw a tidal wave of direct-to-video/cable movies that were either over-the-top or derivative facsimiles of successful mainstream movies. I do wonder if this film was an actual inspiration to subsequent bomb-themed thrillers like Speed, Blown Away, and The Specialist.
Regardless, the film works because it is willing to go THERE and BEYOND with a wacky plot and perfectly campy performances from vets like Silver and Cross. But, at the center is Pierce Brosnan who provides the film with just the balance of dramatic creed and a slight wink and a nod. It’s the perfect concoction for Live Wire as well as his future successful run as the world’s most famous MI-6 agent.