12 December 1998 | Quinn-5
Fine Cable Fodder
Director John Gray, after his last two mediocre-at-best theatrical efforts "Born To Be Wild" and "The Glimmer Man", returns to his tv-directing roots with "The Day Lincoln Was Shot", a fascinating look at one of our country's most famous assassinations. When you watch a good movie, you usually go through the motions: suspense, awe, tragedy (or at least mild sadness), and hopefully in the process crack a smile or two. While no brilliant cinematic triumph, "The Day Lincoln Was Shot" more or less manages to achieve those basic standards, and nowadays, that's no easy feat. What helps it achieve that, though, are two vital factors that elude most modern Hollywood projects: great subject material and great casting. The material is obvious, and should be interesting to most anyone who has even the vaguest knowledge of American history. As for casting, "Millennium" star Lance Henriksen finally lands a fresh role as the Sixteenth President, and it's a startling discovery to find that Mr. Henriksen has been seemingly born with the precise facial mold of good ol' Honest Abe himself, and that it's taken so long for someone to notice! Just add beard, costume and viola! While still playing a dark role, there's a spark to Mr. Henriksen's Lincoln, that makes him alive and real, and more importantly, human. Rob Morrow is John Wilkes Booth, the actor gone bad, who, as we see here, is not just a cardboard borderline psychotic, rather, there's a method to his madness, a motive that fringes on being understandable that brings a freshness to the scenes Morrow steals; it's a relief to see him playing someone other than a smug yuppie trapped in our society. All in all, John Gray has been blessed with the gift of story-telling brevity, and we get a satisfying tv-viewing experience in one evening, not two or three or four, as is the growing tradition for TNT films...done sparingly, this is a treat for the audience.