Mitch Leary, A.K.A James Carney, A.K.A Joseph McCrawley, A.K.A "Booth", is a fictional character created by Jeff Maguire and portrayed by John Malkovich. He serves as the primary antagonist of the American thriller film In the Line of Fire, working as an assassin and personal adversary of Frank Horrigan in a desperate attempt to assassinate the President of the United States.
Mitch Leary is the enigmatic primary antagonist of the film In The Line of Fire, introduced in the film to primary character Frank Horrigan first as a missing tenant to an apartment complex named James McCrawley, where Frank finds several pictures of the JFK assassination as well as articles with crosshairs drawn on to pictures of the current president and personal pictures of Frank himself at the aforementioned historical event. He later calls Frank that night personally, identifying himself as "Booth", referring to Abraham Lincoln's assassin, and stating that he plans to kill this President as well. Frank, believing in his threats, has himself assigned to the President's personal guard as "Booth" repeatedly calls him, taunting him about his failure to protect John F. Kennedy thirty years ago, how he didn't react to the first shot, believing it to be a firecracker. He often challenges Frank's integrity as a protector of the President, wondering if he would rather kill himself than see another President die under his protection, as well as claiming to be "friends" with Frank, due to trying to relate to him personally throughout their calls. His real identity is Mitch Leary, a former CIA assassin who was betrayed by his country after they attempted to assassinate him to cover their tracks, putting him on this personal vendetta against the President of the United States, who he intends to assassinate with a custom-made "zipgun" that he plans to smuggle with himself to commit the murder up close.
Why He Rocks
- It's one thing to have a character planning to assassinate the President, which might not be an entirely new concept (to say the least), but he has a great deal of depth to his character, starting out as a very anonymous and enigmatic character who's motives are unknown, especially as he constantly taunts Frank Horrigan over his failure to protect JFK and seemingly offering him a challenge, to see how far he will really go to protect the President from him.
- He's actually a decently disturbing character, especially before you know his real identity or backstory, like how he forges a company to get his money only to then brutally murder the banker he had previously flirted with to cover his tracks.
- His dynamic with Frank is very interesting, like how he shows respect for him despite being his adversary and becomes almost equally obsessed with Frank as Frank is with him over his ultimate goal of assassinating the President.
- This is perhaps perfectly depicted late in the movie, when Frank holds onto the edge of a building for dear life while chasing him. He holds out a hand to help him, but then goads Frank into pointing his gun at him, pointing out that shooting him now would guarantee the President's safety, but get Frank himself killed, whereas not doing so would save him, but put the President in further danger.
- John Malkovich is absolutely perfect in the role, especially when you learn how far he went for that role, spending a month in isolation without a phone or a cable television and only reading some magazines to get into character.
- He doesn't plan on just shooting the President from a distance like Lee Harvey Oswald did, but rather up close like John Wilks Booth did, and the first part of his plan is to relax the President's security, especially as Frank is put on the detail, calling in 911 to make it seem like Frank was prone to a heart attack then popping several balloons at an inaugural speech to make Frank (who has the flu) panic, think there's a gun, and further embarrass himself.
- The scenes where he's working on his "zipgun", even before we actually see his face, are very ominous and suspenseful as they show how serious he is and how dangerous therein.
- He has some little touches into his character to make him feel like a real person rather than a stock over-the-top villain, like his hobby with modeling toy cars and even testing out his "zipgun" on a boat.
- His plan is overall surprisingly practical, and likely works as somewhat of a cautionary tale to the President's protection detail as he points out some flaws within the security of said detail that are pretty realistic.
- He's shown to have become even somewhat misanthropic as a result of his betrayal, like how he allows two hunters to test out his "zipgun", only for one of them to shoot a duck with it, leading him to reveal his assassination plan and then kill them, even saying when they ask why he would assassinate the President "why'd you shoot that duck, asshole?"
- He has a lot of great other lines like that throughout the movie.
- When his identity is revealed, this also exposes a conspiracy within the CIA that revolves around him, who have classified his identity to the Secret Service only to then have to reveal a lot of it when the latter ends up almost compromising their operation to take him down.
- He actually has a pretty good reason for what he does, even if he's trying to do it to the wrong people, as he had been betrayed by his country after being traumatized by the things he had to do in the CIA and having to kill a friend in self-defense after he was sent to assassinate him to cover their tracks. He has no random political motivation to do so, no policy that he feels so strongly against or something the President supposedly did, because he's trying to bring the country to it's knees through what he's doing.
- The final act is very intense and palpable because of all the buildup in his plan, and the conclusion, when Frank offers to save him from falling like he had done with Frank earlier, only to then refuse and let himself fall to his death, is a very appropriate one for his character.
- A couple parts of his overall plan are a little impractical, like how he gives himself a pretty much perfect disguise to get in, which should be the last place that that's possible.
- He also hides his bullets in a rabbit's foot to give to guards so it won't be scanned in the metal detector, which once again, seems impractical if not negligible on the part of the guards who are protecting the President.
- He kills D'Andrea, who was planning on retiring anyway, pretty much just to further taunt Frank.