“Runaway Train” a good concept, average movie

Mon, Jul 6, 2009

Joe, Klees, Reviews


joeOnce upon a time, in the year 1985, someone got the idea to make a movie called “Runaway Train” with a cast of Seinfeld all-stars:  Jon Voigt, Eric Roberts and Rebecca De Mornay.

Here’s a quick rundown of the plot.  Jon Voigt is Manny, a notorious criminal at an Alaskan prison.  This is a really weird prison though because it’s very vulnerable to bizarre riots that mysteriously begin and end with no explanation.  One minute, the tough guy warden has everything on lock down and the next thing you know, there’s stuff on fire.  Anyway, Manny gets out of solitary and promptly breaks out of prison along with Buck, the eager young boxing-enthused prisoner played by Eric Roberts.  They bust out and end up on an out of control  —  some would even say runaway  —  train.  Panic ensues.

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kleesThe shortest way to review this movie would be to say that the idea of a movie starring Eric Roberts, Jon Voight and Rebecca De Mornay; directed by Andrei Konchalovsky, who helmed Tango and Cash; and was the inspiration for Speed and Speed 2: Cruise Control is much better than the actual film.

But faced with that level of potential for greatest, me and Joe set out to find this movie, which is no longer available on DVD or VHS. We found a copy at the Polk County library and had it sent to Eau Claire. The anticipation for the film grew even greater when my roommate’s VCR attempted to eat the tape. We destroyed the VCR, I cut the shit out of my hand and we set off for Joe’s. Now it was personal; I had given blood to see this film.

The movie, which garnered Oscar noms for both Roberts and Voight, kind of takes a minimalist approach. You’re not gonna get long, eloquent speeches from prisoners like in Shawshank. I image most hardened criminals talk like Voight and Roberts do in this — like complete morons. There’s tons of grunting and yelling. Unfortunately, it only works in spots, and everyone besides Voight and Roberts is horrible.

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joeBasically, this thing boils down to three essential characters: Voight, Roberts and De Mornay.

Voight is the escaped criminal mastermind but I’m not exactly sure what his game is. He’s clearly trying to be a crazy man with all of the yelling and confusing accents. Voight seems to switch accents every sentence. But whatever, it works because he’s Voight. Jon Voight does what Jon Voight do.

Roberts, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. This dude is some sort of moron. Roberts goes about this by doing his impression of Jimmy Stewart doing an impression of Forrest Gump. He spends most of the movie bellowing random nonsense like, “Shoes! I need shoes!” A solid 75 percent of his dialogue consists of the words “Manny,” “shoes,” “shit” and “fuck.” He has what has to be the one-liner of the movie when he looks at De Mornay and says, “How would you like a really good fuck?”

Now on the subject of De Mornay, she’s just brutal. Granted, she didn’t have a whole lot to work with but still … Not only is she a passenger on the train, she’s a passenger in this movie. It’s like they just tossed her into the script to add a third voice to the script, which apparently was written in all caps. There is nothing but shouting.

As far as Blood Bank stats go, there isn’t a whole lot going on.

There are 10 total beatdowns in the flick. Voight has four of them, Roberts has one.

There’s only one kill and that comes during one of the confusing prison riots. And neither Roberts or Voight records it.

I’m not sure why, but I was really hoping to see Eric Roberts shoot something in this movie. It didn’t even have to be a person. But oh well, that opened up more room for the real action hero of this movie:

The runaway train.

This thing is simply badass. It can’t be stopped. Because it is a runaway train. You can’t stop runaway trains. You can’t, Jon Voight can’t, Eric Roberts can’t and Rebecca De Mornay sure as hell can’t.

When we first meet the train, it’s still masking its identity of a runaway train and pretending to be just a normal train. Once it shrugs off that disguise, shit starts poppin’ off. It gets in a pretty sweet train-on-train beatdown when it busts up a caboose. The train also does minimal damage to a bridge and substantial damage to a boarded-up tunnel.

There’s some pretty sweet music blaring when the train first appears. I would have liked that to continue throughout. That tune could have been to the train what the Imperial March is to Darth Vader.

It’s hard for me to give Runaway Train that high of a rating since it was severely lacking in action. Fight scenes were few and far between. However, I did like that train’s style. That and Voight’s crazy screaming is enough for me to bestow a respectable rating of two Steven Seagals upon Runaway Train.


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The film ends with this quote from Shakesphere’s Richard III on screen:

“No beast so fierce but knows some touch of pity. But I know none, and therefore am no beast.”

I think what the filmmakers were trying to say with this quote was that they have giant balls because who else would try to make an Eric Roberts/Jon Voight action/thriller about a runaway train in the middle of Alaska into a pretentious art film. The man who gave you Tango and Cash. That’s who.

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One Response to ““Runaway Train” a good concept, average movie”

  1. DRock Says:

    You’d think a man with the skills to create Tango & Cash could at least create something worth out of a concept as great as this one.


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