Last night, after I wrote up my review of the last In The Line of Duty movie, I checked and discovered that the first In The Line of Duty movie is now available on YouTube.
In The Line of Duty: The FBI Murders is the one that started it all. This was the first installment and it set the general format of all the In The Line of Duty films to follow. It was based on a true story. The movie was evenly split between the criminals and the members of the law enforcement trying to catch them. Here, the criminals were two bank robbers played by David Soul and, in an effective turn against type, Michael Gross. (When this film was released, Gross was best known as the wimpy father on Family Ties. Today, he’s better known as the survivalist from the Tremors films. He went on to play cops in two subsequent In The Line of Duty films.) The FBI agents pursuing them were played by Ronny Cox, Bruce Greenwood, and several other recognizable TV actors.
The FBI Murders was not only the first In The Line of Duty film but it was also the best. All of the subsequent installments, both good and bad, pale in comparison. Though the story is familiar and the foreshadowing is sometimes obvious (“Try not to get shot,” one FBI agent’s wife tells him), The FBI Murders still holds up today because of the strong cast and Dick Lowry’s direction of the final shootout between the cops and the criminals. No matter how many times David Soul gets shot, he keeps getting up and firing more rounds. Making this part of the film all the more effective is that it’s based on fact. During the actual incident, the real-life criminals played by Soul and Gross continued firing and killing even though they had been shot a tremendous number of times. Remarkably, it was discovered that neither had been on any type of pain-killing drug at the time. Instead, they were determined to just keep shooting until the end. Though the two men were outnumbered by the FBI, the agents were not prepared to go up against the military-grade weapons that the men were carrying with them.
The actors who play the FBI agents are all effective, especially Ronny Cox as the veteran who has seen it all. As with the other In The Line of Duty films, a lot of time is spend showing the comradery between the agents and how, even when they’re not at work, they’re all still together. In other In The Line of Duty films, the comradery could sometimes feel forced but, in The FBI Murders, it feels natural and scenes like Bruce Greenwood’s character finally getting a nickname and one of the older agents deciding to go on a stakeout just for old times sake carry a lot more emotional weight than you might expect. It makes the final shootout all the more powerful.
Eleven more In The Line of Duty films would follow but none of them would top The FBI Murders.