Runaway Train (1985) Short Review

Runaway Train has a fairly simple premise; a locomotive goes out of control when the engineer dies from a heart attack. Two escaped convicts make the misfortune of choosing the wrong train to make their getaway in. The most interesting thing about the movie is how the writer (Akira Kurasawa? What the—?!) kept the premise going.

The action is decent, but nothing spectacular. I did like the stunt sequences that were outside of the speeding train. It’s too bad that that was such a small part of the film. The problem with the movie was with the across the board over acting. Pro wrestling is an entertainment of subtleties by comparison.

One of the understated moments of Runaway Train.

This was made by Russian director Andrey Konchalovsky who has made other films in the same vein like the Kurt Russell/Sly Stallone prison epic Tango And Cash. This ain’t Shakespeare, but Konchalovsky has no shame in quoting him in full melodramatic fashion at the end of the film. Perhaps a Russian audience would more readily buy into the wackiness presented.

Eric Roberts has had some decent roles, but might be at his worst ever here with what I think is supposed to be some kind of retarded person with a Southern accent. He acted in a similar style in the Cable Guy if you remember his (dual?) role there.

Rebecca De Mornay makes an extended appearance, but she doesn’t have a lot to do. The film doesn’t treat women too well in this, in general. Maybe that’s a Japanese/Russian thing. Her character is on the train because she neglected her duties by sleeping on the job. The only reason her character is female is because she could tell the 2 inmates how to try to slow the train, but deemed by the director (as female) as incapable of doing anything herself. If the train worker had been a man , he would be the one saving the trio. As it is, she just fills a victim role.

Jon Voight is plain ridiculous here. He’s some kind of superhero criminal in the story. When he gets let out of his cell that’s been welded shut for 3 years (you heard me), the other inmates riot in celebration. Then he gets attacked during a prison boxing match (Roberts was doing a little boxing back then offscreen. It was the in thing to do for Hollywood actors).

Probably the most low key person in the film is the late (great) Kenneth McMillan. He’s known for his wild eyed, loud mouthed villains, but he’s like an NPR announcer compared to the rest of the cast.

I give it a 2.5, but that may be because I find trains fascinating. It’s not the worst film I’ve ever seen, but it’s probably not in my Top 10 Films involving Trains, either.

Akira Kurasowa? Really? Okay it’s only based on one of his stories, but c’mon…

2.5 of 5 whatevers.


One Response to “Runaway Train (1985) Short Review”

  1. A highly regarded prison escape movie set in the frozen north that is far too steeped in melodrama to be believable, although Jon Voight turns in a typically intense performance through to the pretentious and highly anti-climactic ending. Good review, check out mine when you can please!

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