The Midnight Meat Train
Unrated Director’s Cut
Directed by Ryuhei Kitamura
Starring Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Vinnie Jones
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Release date: February 17, 2009
Whether we like it or not, our names do define us. Some are blessed with awesome names such as Alex Starbuck, while others are forced to live with the name Richard Rider (give it a moment, you will get it). My point is, a name is very important and can make you or break you. Had someone told the producers of The Midnight Meat Train, I think the movie would have had a much deserved longer lifespan than it did in theaters.
The Midnight Meat Train tells the story of struggling photographer Leon (Bradley Cooper) in need of his big break. In search of more realistic images, he comes across the mysterious Mahogany (Vinnie Jones), a sharp dressed passenger on a train with a secret. It seems Mahogany loves his day job as a butcher so much that he is spending his nights butchering unsuspecting straphangers. When Leon suspects Mahogany’s midnight activities, he decides to gather evidence on the butcher to bring him down once and for all and in the process gets pulled deeper into Mahogany’s world.
Now admit it Clive Barker fans: The title of the movie just plain stinks. I understand where Barker came from when he bashed Lionsgate for not promoting the movie, but can you blame them? Who would want to sink a bunch of money into a horror movie whose title could easily doubled for a porno movie title? Midnight Meat Train just does not capture the essence of the film without making viewers giggle. (True story: a friend of mine saw this trailer in theaters and when the title came up, the audience burst out laughing.) I am guessing this is the main reason why the movie was DOA at the box office, which is a shame because the movie is actually pretty good.
The movie is a very cliché and by the book horror flick, prepackaged with a cliché “shocking ending” you don’t see coming but the movie never claimed to reinvent the wheel. Plus, with a script by Jeff Buhler and the sleek direction of Ryuhei Kitamura, the movie proves that if done right, the horror film can be entertaining, if not interesting, again.
Kitamura’s directing just agreed with me. I loved how he captured the essence of their version of New York City. Yes, the city in the movie looks nothing like the city now but it fits the tone of the film. All the locations give off this cold, sleek industrial feel, a perfect fit for the Mahogany character and his overall appearance. But like the character, underneath that perfect suit and dapper appearance, there is a gritty, grim underbelly that Kitamura showcases with the New York underground.
I also love the way he films his fight sequences. He is a bit heavy handed when it comes to the slow motion effects but his fight sequences are solid. A confrontation between Leon and Mahogany in subway car in a sea swinging naked bodies is a brutal bloodbath and entertaining as hell. It gets a bit hokey when a detached arm is used as a weapon or blood spews from the bodies with each missed blow by the fighters, but it is quite a satisfying battle. A highlight of the film.
Bradley Cooper is pretty good in his role as Leon. His role requires limited acting range since he is in essence the eyes of the viewer (act scared, act confused, etc.), but he’s got a real on screen presence about him. You really feel for him and root for his character, a talent that seems to be lost in a lot of the actors today. The film industry seems to think so as well, seeing as he is in a lot of upcoming films including The Hangover. Leslie Bibb also stars in the film as Leon’s girlfriend and is pretty much window dressing or the damsel in distress. Despite this, she is more tolerable than most movie girlfriends and is even entertaining to watch.
Vinne Jones’ Mahogany is Barker’s attempt at creating a new iconic horror villain and it has its hits and misses. I think Jones does a decent job, allowing his actions and mannerisms to speak volumes even though his character has only one piece of dialogue. I also like how, despite how bloody and disgusting Mahogany’s profession is, he looks dapper in a suit. His murder weapon of choice, a meat hammer, reflects the cold sleekness and brutality of the character well. It would seem that Barker and company have accomplished their task but on some level, the character misses its mark. When you think of the iconic horror villains like Jason, Freddy, and Michael Myers, there is a certain supernatural element to them. No matter how many times you kill them, they just come back. They are unstoppable and Mahogany does not have this trait. He is very much human and because he kills for a specific reason, I think the character loses a bit of its luster. Overall though, the character is sound.
The DVD extras are the usual garden variety trailer, commentary, and fluffy featurette. The offers are pretty slim, nothing new, and only slightly more informative than the usual features. People buying the DVD hoping the extras will be as good as the movie will be disappointed.
You definitely can do a lot worse than Meat Train. The acting is solid, the action very fast paced, and the overall direction is top rate. If only the movie had a different title, maybe a sequel could be spawned. But for now, horror fans will have to settle for this one film and hope for the best.