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Brian King
Danny Glover, Leelee Sobieski, Steve Zahn, Matthias Schweighöfer, Takatsuna Mukai, Togo Igawa
Writing Credits:
Brian King

How far would you go to have everything you desire?

When a veteran conductor (Danny Glover), a young pre-med student (Leelee Sobieski) and a struggling salesman (Steve Zahn) discover a dead body onboard a night train, the three strangers find themselves on a collision course with destiny. Among the deceased man’s possessions is a mysterious box, containing a treasure so valuable that they conspire to keep it for themselves. Their decision sets in motion a tense game of obsession and deceit, where greed betrays reason and morality gives way to temptation.

Rated R

Widescreen 1.78:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 91 min.
Price: $24.98
Release Date: 7/7/2009

• “Making of” Featurette
• Interviews/Soundbites with Cast and Crew
• Photo Gallery
• Trailer


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Night Train [Blu-Ray] (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 24, 2009)

We get a modern take on Hitchcock-style drama with 2009’s Night Train. In this thriller, we land on a train headed on an overnight trip. When conductor Miles (Danny Glover) checks for tickets, he discovers a dead passenger.

And not just any dead passenger. This one possesses a box that contains valuables worth millions. Insurance salesman Peter Dobbs (Steve Zahn) wants to keep the jewels and split them with Miles and med school student Chloe White (Leelee Sobieski), the only other passenger in the cabin.

They agree to the plan, but they have to figure out what to do with the corpse. They deal with this issue as well as in-fighting among themselves as greed and related concerns consume them.

If you’re going to walk down the Hitchcock side of the street, you’d better be prepared to do it right. Unfortunately, Night Train comes across like a compendium if influences with little direction of its own.

Well, at least it steals from the best. In addition to the many Hitchcock nods, the film borrows liberally from The Maltese Falcon and even lifts from Pulp Fiction when it relates to the much-desired box. I don’t think there’s an original thought or concept to be found here.

If Night Train executed those elements in a dynamic manner, it might overcome its recycled film noir nature. Instead, it just feels like a mishmash without any real cleverness or inspiration. We launch into the story abruptly, as the film dumps us into the laps of the three main characters without much notice. A better movie would give them at least a little decent development, but that doesn’t occur; instead, we’re shoved into the action barely after the opening credits have ended.

Perhaps the filmmakers thought this would make the story seem urgent and exciting, but the opposite results. Since we get moved into the tale with such abandon, we find ourselves oddly disinterested in the events. With thrillers of this sort, part of the fun comes from the build-up; we know that something juicy is coming, and we relish the wait. When we fly into a major plot element without much time to settle into the tale, we lose the tension that forms naturally.

Because Night Train squanders that drama, it tries to compensate with a series of more and more outrageous and outlandish sequences. The film never met a surprise twist it didn’t like, and none of them work. Logically, it should’ve stayed focused on the three leads and worked off the claustrophobic tension that their situation creates.

Instead, the movie introduces one distraction after another. All of these are meant to offer greater potential peril for the leads and to keep us involved, but they fail. Instead, the twists simply seem silly and come across as a form of creative bankruptcy. The filmmakers don’t know how to build and maintain tension naturally, so they inundate us with plot devices.

Granted, I doubt that Night Train would satisfy even if it stayed focused on the three leads. Those characters are so vague and underdrawn that they never engage us. I suppose we care about them in a generic sense – well, except possibly for the one who turns out to be a brutal psycho – but as written and portrayed, they’re so one-dimensional that they fail to prompt any emotional commitment in us.

All of this leaves Night Train as an eminently forgettable flick. I can’t say it provides a genuinely bad piece of work, but it certainly does nothing to distinguish itself in a crowded genre. It comes across as yet another uninspired Hitchcock “homage”.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio C+/ Bonus C-

Night Train appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Only some minor concerns cropped up in this generally solid transfer.

For the most part, sharpness seemed to be very good. A little softness crept into a few wider shots, but those instances remained mild. Overall, the flick provided nice clarity and definition. I witnessed no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement wasn’t a distraction. In terms of source defects, I saw a couple of small specks but no other problems manifested themselves.

Colors worked pretty well. The film usually went with a warm, holiday-themed palette, and the disc delivered the hues with nice vivacity. Blacks came across as dark and tight, while shadows were clear and smooth. Overall, I thought the flick provided a solid visual presentation.

While not really flawed, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Night Train seemed lackluster. The soundfield didn’t boast a lot to impress us. Much of the audio concentrated on elements related to the train, and they opened up matters to a decent degree. However, they often came across as rather vaguely placed, and they didn’t show great localization and specificity. The train effects cropped up around the spectrum but didn’t give us a great sense of place.

Movement was also limited. We heard the occasional zoom of the train from the front to the rear or from side to side, but these instances remained somewhat unconvincing. The track simply didn’t involve us in the material well.

Quality was acceptable. Speech always appeared intelligible, though the lines tended to be a little thin and stiff. Music was too bass-heavy and lacked great presence; the score didn’t sound bad, but it didn’t give us terrific range. The same went for the effects, as they were decent but not impressive in their clarity or punch. The track worked well enough for a “C+” but it didn’t do more for me than that.

We get only a few extras here. First comes a Making Of featurette that runs 22 minutes, 52 seconds. It includes comments from producers Brian Etting, Arnold Rifkin, Michael Philip and Jo Marr, director Brian King, SFX makeup designer Elvis Jones, and actors Steve Zahn, Danny Glover, Leelee Sobieski, Richard O’Brien, and Constantine Gregory. The program looks at sets and the use of the train setting, story, characters and inspirations, various effects, cast and performances, and a few other production thoughts.

Expect a competent but unexceptional featurette here. It’s longer than the average piece of this sort, so that allows it to develop a bit more depth than usual. However, it still doesn’t do a lot to flesh out many of the issues. We find a smattering of interesting notes but this essentially remains a superficial, promotional show.

A collection of Interviews/Soundbites with Cast and Crew fills 28 minutes, 13 seconds. In these, we hear from Glover, Zahn, Sobieski, O’Brien, King, Philip, Marr, Rifkin, and Jones. These interviews come from the same sessions seen in the prior featurette, so they cover the same subjects.

And they also repeat many of the same comments, so expect a fair amount of repetition. The additional footage manages to expand things to a decent degree, but we still don’t learn a ton about the movie. The information remains fairly ordinary; we get a passable look at the film and that’s it.

In addition to the film’s trailer, we find a Photo Gallery. This running collection includes 29 pictures and lasts two minutes, 11 seconds. We find nothing more than images from the flick in this dull package.

Because Alfred Hitchcock was so good as what he did, those who attempt to follow in his footsteps usually flop. That’s true for Night Train, a sloppy, often silly thriller in the Hitchcock vein. It rambles along for its 91 minutes without much logic or coherence; it hopes its plot twists will keep us occupied, but they don’t. The Blu-ray provides very good picture along with mediocre audio and some minor extras. Skip this forgettable flick and rewatch The Lady Vanishes or The 39 Steps instead.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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