Monday, September 27, 2010


I don't tend to talk about my favourite films on this blog. This is probably because I'd imagine you think my tastes in movies blow. Hell, sometimes even I think my taste in films suck. But for whatever reason I've decided to put this clip up, certainly one of the most ham-fisted of scenes in Andrei Konchalovsky's 1985 "exiential action" flick, RUNAWAY TRAIN. It's been one of my all-time fave movies ever since I saw it for the first time on TV back in 1988, and even a recent viewing hasn't let it slip down the list. I remember it being on at the cinemas when I was 13, but ignored it due to the title: the frighteningly literal title Runaway Train makes it sound like a Disney film. If you haven't seen it, the cast probably won't sell the picture to you. There's serial ham, Jon Voight, a guy whose career started off strong as an A-list talent in films such as Midnight Cowboy and Deliverance, but whom by the '80s had hit the same skids that befell other actors of his "New Hollywood" generation, and found himself either doing B-movies or not working much at all. And that's the good news. On top of that you have Z-grade straight-to-DVD icon Eric Roberts ("Julia's brother"), who, despite several cases of serious over-acting on his behalf, manages to pull of a highly convincing portrait of a not-too-bright thug (possibly not a stretch); and Rebecca DeMornay, the chick who got her gear off in Risky Business, playing a stranded railway worker stuck on the train w/ these two lowlifes. The extremely bloody and violent tale, w/ a screenplay by Akira Kurosawa, follows the attempted escape from a maximum-security prison in the middle of an Alaskan winter, one (Voight) a hardened criminal wishing to show the dastardly prison warden (and boy, he's dastardly) that he can escape the prison's claw, break free and not let his spirit be crushed; the other, Roberts, a dumb punk in the middle of a stretch for statutory rape ("we's was in love") who's only too eager to please the legendary lifer whose resolve remains an inspiration to all the prisoners. And of course their plans go haywire when they realise in the midst of their escape that they're stuck on a runaway train headed for disaster. I shouldn't have to explain the metaphor of the "runaway train", but I will: Manny (Voight), is the "runaway train", a force which can't be stopped, a hardened brute of a man who'll stop at nothing for his freedom. But can such a beast show pity for a fellow human being? You'll just have to watch it, if you care. After those last few sentences, that's less likely. Directed by a Russian, the script by a Jap, featuring an American cast and filmed in Canada, this international effort, for a film of its time, is surprisingly downbeat, grim and brutally realistic in its violence (delicate souls probably won't get past the first 40 minutes based in the prison), though the action scenes in the last 40 minutes, superbly directed though they are, would also certainly find an appeal amongst the multiplex Lethal Weapon crowd. I've met many folks who've never seen Runaway Train, but those who have, every single one of them has nothing but praise for it. Along w/ Walter Hill's excellent Southern Comfort from 1982, it remains the best thinking-man's action flick of the '80s.

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