Thursday, May 15, 2014

Night Train = It Rang Thin

Every so often, I go through Netflix looking for movies to watch and eventually review.  I tend to add a lot that are available streaming, including this one.  However, I didn’t get to it in time; the movie was no longer available streaming, so I had to rent it.  It looked interesting, but all I really knew about it was that it was about three strangers on a train.

The description doesn’t quite do it justice.  Danny Glover plays a conductor named Miles.  There aren’t many passengers on the train.  (As the title would indicate, the train is traveling at night.)  Two passengers of interest are Chloe, played by Leelee Sobieski, and Pete, played by Steve Zahn.  They’re joined by a mysterious man who boards the train at the last moment.  He’s carrying a package, which he guards closely.  It doesn't take long for Mystery Man to die from a combination of vodka and sleeping pills.

At first, Miles wants to leave everything to the authorities.  After finding a small box containing something valuable, Miles reconsiders.  From there, things only get worse.  Being strangers, each person is quick to be suspicious of the other two.  They also have to do something with the body, preferably without drawing attention.  Eventually, someone comes looking for the passenger and his package.  Miles tries to get rid of all sorts of unwanted attention, including the train’s three other passengers and the police.

When I saw the page on Netflix, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I liked to concept of a fairly contained story, which it was.  (Most of it takes place on the train.)  There is a paranormal aspect, though.  Each person sees something valuable in the box, but each person could see something different.  One person might see emeralds.  Another might see diamonds or rubies.  The box has the power to corrupt people who look inside.

It reminded me of The Brass Teapot in that both movies had a supernatural object that used greed to control people.  However, The Brass Teapot handled it better.  It did a better job of showing a slow descent into madness.  With Night Train, we just had three people that got greedy in a hurry.  I’m not saying that I wouldn’t be any better, but we don’t really find out much about the characters other than why each wants the money.  (Miles has a sick wife, Chloe is pre-med and Pete has a job he doesn’t care much for.)

Part of the problem was that the movie wasn’t well-written.  I didn’t see any real reason to empathize with any of the characters.  Miles seems at least smart about it.  He takes it upon himself to hide the box.  Chloe becomes very methodical very quickly.  Add to that the low production values. (The movie was released straight to video.)  The CGI for the train was fairly obvious.  (It seemed to me that the train was moving to quickly in the exterior shots.)

I’m kind of wondering what Danny Glover was thinking, taking the role.  I’m not saying the movie was beneath him, but it doesn’t seem like something he’d do.  Glover is a big name.  I can see him wanting to support an independent film.  That I would at least understand.  However, this wasn’t a great film.  Even at 90 minutes, it seemed to stretch at times.

My one regret here is not having watched it streaming.  I don’t think it was worth getting it on DVD.  I’m not saying that it’s not worth watching.  It’s just not going to be for everyone.  I asked my parents if they wanted to watch it before I returned it.  I don’t think they got past the first fifteen minutes.

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