Reviewed by: Ryan Doom
M. Brian King
and Steve Zahn
What's it about
On a snowy night train, a dead man leaves behind a mysterious box. Everyone who encounters it immediately convents it and they will kill to keep it. All aboard!
Is it good movie?
I love train films. I love the claustrophobic nature of the narrow cars. I love the constant background noise that automatically creates tension and the shifting of the cars to create motion. I love the influx of varied background characters that find themselves on a train traveling to unknown destinations. And in fact, itís that notion, the idea of travelers sharing a journey together thatís impossible to escape from (until a stop) that makes this genre just so damn loveable. Unless it stars Steven Seagal. Sorry, pal. That last Under Siege sucked.
In the grand tradition of allowing mystery to unfold during a tracked destination, the new flick Night Train attempts to bring back many of those attributes I proclaimed my undying love for (ok, I need to clear this up. I donít have a train fetish or anything. I donít have train wallpaper. And I donít wear a conductor hat in bed. It just produces an old school vibe.). In some regards, director/writer M. Brian King attempts to recapture some the Agatha Christie/Arthur Conan Doyle vibe in the sense that Night Train doesnít take place in any specific time or place. Sure, the characters look and act modern (and they use cell phones), but it really could unfold in any decade. However, unlike those films, thereís not just one main character attempting to unlock the mystery. Instead, the movie allows paranoia and greed to drive the mystery and to allow the moral fibers of the characters to emerge.
The story entails a conductor (Glover), a pre-med student (Sobieski), and a boozy salesman (Zahn) all who are in the same car when a fellow passenger drops dead. They look through his stuff and find a little wood box with something priceless inside. Director King takes a cue from Ronin and Pulp Fiction among others as an object drive all. It adds a good level of intrigue via the box as everyone who peers inside of it will stop at nothing to keep it. The story moves quickly as the three decide to dump the body and pretend he never came aboard. Itís at this point that Night Train effectively balances gore within a normal story as Sobieski has to lob off the limbs of the dead man in an effectively gruesome fashion. Iíll stop at this point because like any decent mystery, the story weaves here and there like Barry Sanders on crack. And Iím not a spoiler kinda guy.
As for the quality of Night Train, itís not tough to tell this thing had no budget. The train, which King continually cuts to weaving on tracks throughout the snowy night, is some of the worst CGI Iíve seen. I suspect they set the film in the snow so the shots of the train could be blurred through the massive snowfall. The acting mostly is quite solid though I still find Danny Glover a bit of a mystery. The guy is a quality actor and a star in his own right, but sometimes he just underwhelms. The last few pictures Iíve seen him in heís just sort of there, never dominating a scene. In contrast, Zahn always delivers and adds a touch of humanity even if his salesman character here is a bit clichťd. And Sobieski? Well, I love you. Yes, I profess my love for you. Youíre tall (Iím 6í8Ē people) and youíre hot. Oh, and she always makes for a pretty good killer, too.
Video / Audio
Video: A crisp and clear 16x9 Widescreen presentation.
Audio: Presented with the power of 5.1 Dolby Surround.
Over 50 minutes of bonus material, includingÖ
Night Train: The Making Of: A nice 22-minute doc thatís a solid look at the production. Itís pretty standard, but if you enjoyed the movie you should watch this too. What else can I say?
Interviews with the Cast/Crew: About 30-minutes of individual cut up interviews with all major parties involved. I really like this format of allowing each person a little bit of time to just chat about what they think makes the movie work. Pretty simple, yet cool and its something Iíd really like to see more of DVDs. Why not?
While sometimes clichťd and cheap looking, Night Train ends up being a pretty solid little flick. It takes a while to get this locomotive rolling, but once it does it picks up steam and body count.