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Artisan Home Entertainment presents
Con Express (2002)

"Make sure no one survived that crash. These interruptions are wrecking my day."
- The General (Arnold Vosloo)

Review By: Rich Rosell   
Published: August 07, 2002

Stars: Sean Patrick Flanery, Arnold Vosloo
Other Stars: Ursula Karven, Tim Thomerson, Joel West
Director: Terry Cunningham

MPAA Rating: R for violence, language and some nudity
Run Time: 01h:34m:28s
Release Date: July 23, 2002
UPC: 012236126843
Genre: action


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
C- C-B-C+ D

DVD Review

Terry Cunningham's Con Express is one of those action B-films that looks and sounds like something we think we may have seen before; the characters, dialogue and scenarios all have a resounding air of familiarity about them. The premise here is a runaway freight train barreling through the Alaskan wilderness packed with some kind of deadly nerve gas, and while parts of the script would actually be decent B-movie fodder, Con Express somehow chugs along predictably and inserts the occasional standard action cliches, without any real sense of drama.

Brooks (Sean Patrick Flanery) is a cocky Alaskan customs agent who inadvertently assists in the arrest of a much sought after international criminal, a rogue Russian general played by The Mummy himself, Arnold Vosloo. Also sharing in the bust is a female Soviet agent (Ursula Karven), who has been tracking the general across the globe. It's a requirement in a film like this that Brooks and the Russian agent will not like each other, be forced into a situation as partners, get naked together, and utter a few wisecracks while doing dangerous stunts. Check, check, check and check.

Like his turns in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, Vosloo here is the heavy who gets remarkably little screen time when all is said and done. His face is plastered all over the DVD artwork, but his character isn't in the film all that much; that's too bad because his character is probably the most interesting one in the whole project, with the possible exception of his psychotic partner Zednick (Joel West), who likes to eat people's faces. The mummy and the general both are pretty similar, actually, and require Vosloo to scowl and look really, really pissed off much of the time. I have no clue if he can do more advanced acting, but he carries these types of bad guy roles pretty effortlessly, and in Con Express he does it with a decent amount of camp, too.

The staple of any good action movie is, well, the action, of course. A film like Con Express, however, was made with a modest (re: small) budget, and director Cunningham was forced to pilfer action footage from other films to fill in for his big set pieces. Like Jim Wynorski did with Extreme Limits, the airplane crash scene from Cliffhanger is once again trotted out during the general's big escape scene, and it looks just as out of place here as it did in Wynorski's film. During the big runaway train sequences, the 1985 film Runaway Train (there's a surprise, eh?) supplies most of the footage of the out-of-control choo-choo. Even Sly Stallone's embarrassing Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! contributes some action sequences to fill in some of the budgetary cracks in Con Express.

All of the requisite action plot points are here: there are plenty of nonsensical shootouts, fiery explosions, a number of daring walk-on-top-of-a-moving-train sequences, and of course the obligatory dangle-by-one-arm-from-a-moving-train scene. Everything else in the film just seems like filler.

Rating for Style: C-
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: A nondescript 1.33:1 fullframe transfer from Artisan is peppered with a few small nicks, but otherwise looks pretty good. Colors look natural, as do fleshtones, though in something like this where at least three different feature films were used for "stock" footage, it's a little hard to retain a degree of consistency in the finished product.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno


Audio Transfer Review: The 2.0 surround track is as unremarkable as the image transfer; dialogue is clear, but any kind of spatial imaging is pretty much nonexistent. Rear channel activity is nil, with all of the sound reproduced across the front channels. A mix with a deeper bottom end, to take advantage of the whole runaway train scenario, would have been appreciated.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: AGI Media Packaging
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: One theatrical trailer, 24 chapters and Spanish subtitles are all Artisan has included on this disc. Where the hell's a commentary? This disc could have used one badly. Jim Wynorski did a great commentary on the very similar Extreme Limits, and I wished Terry Cunningham had provided the same kind of self-mocking treatise here, but no such luck.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

If you're used to big-budget action movies, cheaply made outings like this will pale in comparison. However, as mindless rainy Saturday afternoon entertainment, it ain't all that bad. There's a certain TV-movie campiness in Con Express, much of it delivered by the snarling bad guys. Flanery's bland hero, Brooks, is the weakest element in the whole equation, and when you're rooting for the villain you know something is wrong. The macho posturing and snappy one-liners get a bit much at times, but Arnold Vosloo's underused general is an enjoyably shady character.

 


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