Cast: Danny Glover, Leelee Sobieski, Steve Zahn, Matthias Schweighoefer, Geoff Bell
Director: M. Brian King
Release Date: July 6, 2009, 5:25 pm
Rating: R for (violent content and some language)
Run Time: 01h:30m:38s
ìNot a good night to miss a train, friend.î - Miles (Danny Glover)
Movie Grade: C
DVD Grade: C-
Weíll cut right to the chase and say that Night Train wears its low budget on its sleeve. Weíre even given its shortcomings right from the get-go, with one of the worst opening credit sequences youíll ever see. Despite the initial bad taste left in my mouth, I persevered and leapt into the film with an open mind. Good thing I did because things actually turned out better than expected, and the film is a relatively engaging experience, albeit one that requires you to severely suspend your disbelief. Hitchcockian to say the least, Night Train is one of those flicks to throw on late one Friday night and just chill out to.
The premise is a relatively simple one, as weíre taken aboard a passenger train called The Nightingale on Christmas Eve. We meet three key players: the trainís conductor, Miles (Danny Glover), and two passengers, one a drunken businessman named Peter Dobbs (Steve Zahn) and a lovely young med student, Chloe White (Leelee Sobieski). What seems like a normal train ride takes a turn when a strange man boards the train with a package in tow. Soon, something tragic happens to the man and our main trio is left to discover the packageís contents; a wooden puzzle box that practically demands that they look inside. The box soon takes a sort of control over them and they will stop at nothing to ensure that the box remains intact, and, most importantly, belongs to them at the end of the train ride.
Itís difficult to actually recommend something like this, but thereís enough here to make it a guilty pleasure. I donít know that Iíll ever watch the film again, but the initial ride left me feeling pretty good about the 90 minutes of my time that I had just spent. Letís get back to the amazingly cheap-looking special effects. Itís painfully obvious during each and every exterior sequence, that weíre seeing actors shot against Green Screen. Sure, that kind of thing is done in seemingly every movie these days, but the quality of the resulting special effects is, at worst, eye-catching. Here, they are bargain-basement, almost always involving exterior shots of a zooming train. Itís difficult to even make out the details of the train itself, as the nighttime backdrop is way too dark. Plus, the numerous plot holes are, appropriately enough, the size of train tunnels, and the twists and turns are extremely predictable. One particular twist, involving the true identity of a passenger with a dog, could have been figured out by my five-year-old the first moment this character appeared. Still, the ending is surprisingly engaging and ambiguous enough to cause at least a short post-viewing discussion.
The main cast is what it is: a collection of B-Listers doing their best with a weak script and horrible effects work. While Glover is in full, middle-aged Roger Murtaugh mode, and Zahn is playing his typical nerdy fish-out-of-water character, itís Sobieski that struggles the most to remain believable. Her career is a very interesting one. She hit the scene in the disaster movie Deep Impact, standing out among a cast that was basically there to drive the special effects, did a great job with limited screen time in Eyes Wide Shut, and led the cast of the widely released thriller The Glass House. It was all downhill from there though, as itís been nothing but horrible films like The Wicker Man and 88 Minutes, or direct-to-video flicks. Her work in Night Train makes it painfully obvious as to why her career has never really taken off, as her amazing beauty canít totally hide her consistently wooden acting approach. Still, Iím sure Iíll continue to seek out anything and everything Ms. Sobieski does in the future.
Chuck Aliaga July 6, 2009, 5:25 pm