END OF THE LINE (1987) Levon Helm and Wilford Brimley travel to Chicago to get their jobs back.

End of the LineTheme Song:


The soundtrack music is credited to Andy Summers (The Police). This is a pretty odd song. It’s got a slide guitar/country-ish sound, but then it gets all 80s and progressive. I’m pretty certain it’s terrible, but then for a few seconds I think it has a little bit of hope.

Interesting Dated References: Eating a deviled egg sandwich; The way things used to be; Being a Luddite.

Best Line: In reference to provisions and being all set for a long trip: “I got some beer and lunchmeat.”

Social Context: There’s a strong anti-big business current running through End of the Line, but none of it amounts to much. There’s also a lot of talk about the American Dream and what it means to work at something your whole life, only to have it snatched out from beneath you.

Summary: Through an opening montage we learn the big city executives at railway company Southland have decided to go into air freight. If you were to talk to a railway expert, they would be quick to point out that this is totally implausible since the majority of what railway companies transport is too heavy for air freight. But then you have to ask yourself, what are you doing talking to a railway aficionado, anyway?

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Down at the rail yard depot aging curmudgeon Will (Wilford Brimley) wanders around and socializes with his coworkers. Will’s best friend Leo is played by Levon Helm.

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Helm gives a strong performance as a blue collar Arkansas train worker. The friendship between him and Brimley seems based on fear of future, fear of progress, and fear of youth. Things old people worry about.

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A literal representation of their fears shows up in the form of Kevin Bacon, who is wearing a shirt for the band Venom. Bacon is the showboating young guy on the rail yard who walks around like it’s in the video for Michael Jackson’s Beat It. He also happens to be Will’s estranged son-in-law.

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Later, Will and Leo (and their wives) eat salmon patties, smoke, and play Bridge. Will’s daughter, Charlotte, shows up to pick-up her kid. Charlotte is played by Holly Hunter and she can’t get enough of Kevin Bacon and announces that they plan to re-marry. Added to that, Will is depressed because rumors are rampant about the rail yard closing. I should also mention Leo’s wife is played by Mary Steenburgen even though all I feel like I’m doing is summarizing the various people in this movie and not actually contributing any worthwhile commentary.

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Then next day, Kevin Bacon and his Ratt shirt arrive for work only to find that the rail yard has closed. Since that means the whole day is shot, everyone goes to the bar.

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Look at how awesome and incredibly depressing the interior of this bar is. Almost all of the interior shots in this movie are really authentic and depressing looking. While at the bar, Will announces that in the morning he’s going to take a train car and drive it from Arkansas to Southland headquarters in Chicago and demand for their jobs back.

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The only person that decides to join him is Leo, and so the two are off on some type of road trip on the railroads.

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As stated above, there really is some depressing scenery along the trip. The duo talks about America, and work, and various other things that mildly-educated southern men would talk about when half drunk and full of salty lunch meat.

Helm is very relaxed in his role and seems to be ad-libbing a lot of his lines. Seriously, he’s fucking rambling on and on and they let the camera roll. There’s also a good dynamic between Brimley and Helm, but Brimley is playing the same grumpy old man he always does.

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At some point they get a hotel with really weird wallpaper that’s metallic and reflective. Meanwhile back home in Arkansas, the wives go to see the sheriff about their missing husbands.

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The sheriff is played by Trey Wilson (RIP), which makes this the second movie he and Holly Hunter were in together in 1987 (Raising Arizona being the other).

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Back in Chicago, the fat cat executives (including Clint Howard and Bob Balaban who does a weird New York Jewish accent so absurd it’s almost racist) catch wind of the train-bound duo and try to have a welcoming party.

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But Will and Leo ditch out in favor of seeing Old Town and the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, which makes yet another appearance in a movie.

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So the fat cat executives try to make Will and Leo complacent by letting them star in a commercial, but instead they decide to kidnap the even older CEO of the company and take him on the train back to Arkansas.

Here’s some type of a cappella Brimley/Helm jam session singing God Must Have Blessed America by Allen Toussaint (popularized by Glen Campbell). So the CEO had no idea the younger executives were plotting to turn the company into an air freight business and so he agrees to sell Will the rail yard for $1.

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Will gives some motivational speech to the townspeople about staying and working and striving. Then they all have a small party because everyone is apparently really enthused to work for a small independent business in a dying industry.

Poster and Box Art: End of The Line appears to have been a direct-to-video release. As a result there’s no theatrical poster. The videotape cover is poor and totally safe.

Availability: Because of Kevin Bacon and questionable copyright ownership, this movie has fallen into the legal gray area. As a result, it’s available on several DVDs with Bacon’s face really big on the cover. Also, thanks to modern technology, you can watch this move for free on HULU as of early 2013.

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