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Man On The Train (2003)
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Review Date: December 11, 2003
Director: Patrice Leconte
Writer: Claude Lotz
Producers: Phillippe Carcassonne
Actors:
Jean Rochefort as Mr. Manesquier
Johnny Hallyday as Milan
Charlie Nelson as Max
Plot:
An aging bank robber gets off a train and steps into a small French town for yet another heist. With nowhere to stay, he ends up crashing at some lonely old guy's place, an elderly man who likes to talk a lot. The two men speak and speak and then, speak some more, until it's time for the old man to go in for an operation and the bank robber, well...to rob a bank. That's pretty much it, folks.
Critique:
Where's the beef? I've never pretended that the "buzz" on a film, either good or bad, hasn't affected my opinion slightly whenever my view of the movie ultimately fell in diametrical opposition to what I'd heard about it, so allow me to use this film as an example of just that. I liked this movie but considering all that I'd heard about it beforehand were words like "flawless" and "genius", I was disappointed when all was said and done. Yes, this is a semi-interesting character study featuring two men who meet at different points of their respective lives and share lost dreams and hopeful wonders, but at the end of the day, it's essentially just two guys "hanging out" for an hour and a half and talking shit. The film starts slowly, with very little dialogue or action and graduates to a slightly less deliberate pace, but remains as quiet, action-less and character-focused as can be. If you're looking for plot, actual incidents taking place or thrills in any sense of the word, this film is not for you. I liked it overall, mostly because I enjoyed the lead characters and their interpretations of the world, and the fact that it barely clocked in at under an hour and a half. Even though both characters aren't exactly in my age bracket, their philosophies regarding their respective stations in life were also universal, with queries about the purpose of life, loneliness and regretful decisions included in their conversations. It's to note that the film ends on a particularly unsympathetic and surreal note, but I liked that part of it since I enjoy the more open-ended conclusions.

Both actors were also great in their respective roles with Hallyday, better known as the "French Elvis" (and oddly related to actor Michael Vartan) downplaying his character with a steely blue gaze that dropped a brick of crap into my undies by look alone, and Rochefort, eloquent, insecure and hopeful, as the old man who just wants some excitement added back into his life. That said, the piece ultimately didn't strike me as particularly enlightening, and felt more like a whimsical, semi-interesting peek into the lives of two somewhat remorseful men. It doesn't help that I've probably seen dozens of these kinds of movies before, in which two characters from two entirely different worlds meet and ultimately "rub off" on one another. What did work were the actors, both of whom were charismatic, the locales, a small French town complete with décor and aura, and the interaction between the two leads, which starts off on a typically apprehensive "strangers meeting" mode, but turns into something a little more engaging, human and yeah...maybe even a little creepy (take the man's slippers off, dude) Most of their conversations felt ordinary though, like ones you'd have with your friends. That said, they were never really boring either and helped strengthen the bond between the strangers (although I coulda done without all the poetry stuff) In the end, I can't say that there was much about this film that blew me away, so unless the general idea of two older French guys discussing life for 90 minutes sounds intriguing to you, it's probably not a film that I would recommend to folks who look forward to the weekends so that they can rent ARMAGEDDON, THE ROCK and CON AIR, in order to watch them back to back to back. PS: Guilty, as charged...
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian
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