There are three different kinds of cinematic psychos: The awkward recluse (Jame ‘Buffalo Bill’ Gumb in The Silence of the Lambs); the random killer (the title character in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer); and the deadly charmer. Most dangerous of all, that last one is brilliantly personified by John Malkovich as Mitch Leary in In the Line of Fire.
With his infinitely malleable appearance and attitude, Leary easily charms (and disarms) politicos and Red Necks alike. Even his nemesis, Clint Eastwood’s haunted Secret Service Agent Frank Horrigan, is taken with him and his philosophy that the President’s life isn’t worth more than his own.
Leary discharges his gun and one-liners in equal measure; the film is filled with banter between Horrigan and Leary, who at one point smirks his plot to kill the president is to “punctuate the dreariness.”
Even though Eastwood’s the hero, Malkovich’s icy villain is the guy you remember. You can’t help rooting for him — even though you know he’d kill you in a heartbeat.