Friday, 23 November 2018

The Midnight Meat Train

Title: The Midnight Meat Train
Director: Ryuhei Kitamura
Released: 2008
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields, Roger Bart, Ted Raimi Vinnie Jones

Plot: Leon (Cooper) is a photographer with an obsession with the darker side of the city, however when challenged by gallery owner Susan Hoff (Shields) to find darker subject matter he by chance discovers a serial killer (Jones) using the midnight subway system as an abattoir.

Review: Another film to be adapted from Clive Barker’s “Books of Blood” short story collection this film also marked the English language debut from director Ryuhei Kitamura who much like Barker is equally no stranger to blending genres. My main reason for checking this one out those was the memory of Vinnie Jones’ role as the sharply dressed serial killer who rides the midnight subway trains being compared to that of Arnold Schwarzenegger in “The Terminator” and its certainly a performance he nails here with him imposing form and ice cold demenor.

Bradley Cooper’s role as the photographer Leon meanwhile is kind of confusing as here he plays a photographer obsessed with exposing the seedier side of the city which we are lead to believe is for artistic purposes while at the same time he shows no qualms about putting himself in harms way when he chooses to photo graph a gang on the subway. Frustratingly the background or reasons for Leon pursuing this work is never made clear so why he’s willing to take such risks much less become so obsessed with tracking down this suspected killer.

Of course seeing how this is a film being based off a short story there is of course the requirement to pad out the story which here questionably adds Leon’s girlfriend who really doesn’t add a huge amount to the film in terms of plot and really only served to bring an element of melodrama to the final act. What is confusing though is how Kitamura manages to craft a film which is clearly in need of some trimming as while the additional elements certainly don’t detract from the story the film still felt like it overstayed it welcome especially when it passed the point I felt like we should be getting some kind of resolution.

Unsurprisingly for Kitamura and the fact this is based on a Clive Barker text the film is gratuitously bloody which can in some scenes work such as one potential victim attempting to craw across the blood drenched floor while other seem like bad 3D effects which made me wonder if this film has ever been scheduled for any kind of 3D release. Still there is still some inventive violence on show here as skulls are clubbed with a meat hammer and crimson sprays across the carriages. The highlight being when we get to see the nights quota of victims strung up like a human abattoir.
Outside of the gore which is the arguably the obvious draw here Kitamura also brings his underrated eye for detail in his settings as he bring a real feeling of sleaze to the subways, while a cat and mouse style chase through an abattoir bringing a real menace to Jones character as he stares down a corridor of carcasses. All of which rises it about the predicted disposable horror that the film is sold as, something also not helped by its throwaway distribution by the studio.

A frustrating film at time as it diverges from being an effective thriller to tedium but when it works it is an effective film but far from what fans of Kitamura have come to expect from the director who here feels at times like he's had his wings clipped.

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