NEM // 2009 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // July 10th, 2009
Greed has its price.
I've always loved trains, but it doesn't seem they figure much in movies anymore. I mean after Silver Streak and Terror Train where is there left to go? The sad truth is nobody seems to take them much anymore when you can drive or fly somewhere. The passenger locomotive seems to be disappearing from our world and cinematic imaginations, so I was excited to see Night Train pass through my home theatre station. I was all too eager to climb aboard, but unfortunately it wasn't the destination I had hoped for.
On a snow-filled Christmas Eve, a train cuts through white drifts carrying something mysterious and slightly evil. A soon-to-be-retired conductor (Danny Glover, Lethal Weapon), a nerdy medical school student (Leelee Sobieski, The Wicker Man (2006)) and a sad salesman (Steve Zahn, Happy, Texas) discover one of their fellow passengers is dead. But before anybody calls the cops, they peer in to a box that he was clutching in his dying gasp. What is in the box convinces all three to try and conspire to keep it for themselves. And so a cat and mouse game begins with three strangers barreling through the night onboard a train.
Night Train works when it is setting up its thriller premise. I loved the idea of paying homage to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Maltese Falcon, and several Hitchcock flicks. Even with rather cheesy CGI setup shots of the train, the film seems like it is going to be a fun ride. But then the script veers towards the supernatural, and the narrative derails everything else. It's a wreck of a movie, and ultimately it disappoints rather than delivering the thrills it promises.
The actors all seem to be stuck in roles we would guess them for, and they can't go anywhere with the twist they are given. Danny Glover is an "I'm too old for this..." wise man with a strong moral compass, Leelee Sobieski is the surprisingly sexy dry-witted girl with a violent surprise or two in her, and Steve Zahn is the sad sack guy who seems desperate to find a way out of his alcoholic haze of a life. They do fine with what they are given, but even they can't save Night Train once the steam runs out. In a left of center surprise we get the casting of Richard O'Brien (The Rocky Horror Picture Show) as a doddering spinster with a yippy dog and a name that conjures up Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes. He's good until the point comes when he has to follow the twist along with everybody else.
NEM treats the DVD of Night Train as if it were a box office blockbuster with "over fifty minutes of bonus features" as advertised on the box. We get about twenty minutes of a "making of" feature, and then unedited interviews with cast and crew that run thirty minutes even though they contain footage seen in that first supplement. Also included are production photos and a trailer. The transfer is solid with everything looking clear enough, although the exterior CGI scenes of the train are problematic. A BluRay edition was released simultaneously, but seems the DVD is just fine for this one. It's amazing treatment for what amounts to a forgettable "straight to DVD" thriller.
I miss trains as the setting for a good thriller, but unfortunately Night Train isn't in the same league as Murder on the Orient Express. Instead we get a minor train flick with a guest appearance by the box from Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth. This one's a low budget direct to DVD thriller that starts off well enough, but can't seem to get to the end of the line without derailing itself.
Guilty of getting off track, Night Train is a bungled thriller that
attempts to pay homage to Hitchcock.
Review content copyright © 2009 Brett Cullum; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R