Something to note after viewing Night Train: Never die in the presence of Leelee Sobieski if you have any intention of a proper burial. Give her a hatchet and watch her cut through a body with the best of them.
She has her chance to show offer talents after her character, Chloe White, decides to steal jewels from a man who has died aboard a train. Along with Steve Zahn and Danny Glover, they decide to chop the guy up, stuff him in a suitcase, and toss him out over a bridge they’re passing over.
That’s where Sobieski shows us her cutting arm.
Night Train almost works, in fact gaining a spot of significant tension as police board the train at an unscheduled stop. Things quickly spiral out of control from there, as many of the actors end up playing poor caricatures. The film struggles with its tone, bouncing from dark comedy to serious thriller and then into a misguided slasher film.
Take Geoff Bell, the detective who climbs on board to investigate the possible murder of a passenger. His clothes, including suspenders and toothpick, put him somewhere in the 1940s. Other characters seem plucked from other eras, and none of them fit together. Richard O’Brien of Rocky Horror fame unconvincingly plays a man dressed as an old woman, also a pile of clichés with her annoying Pomeranian in hand at all times. Does no one think this woman looks a little off?
There is nothing here to pull the audience in, but more importantly, nothing to keep them involved even when it briefly picks up. The source of this madness, the supposedly diamond-filled cube, apparently contains some mystical powers that truly send the film overboard. As a goofy diamond caper with a sly sense of wit and dark comedy, Night Train might have worked.
Interviews on the disc reveal this is supposed to be some form of homage to the noir films of the ‘30s and ‘40s, but it completely misses the mark. Comparisons to The Maltese Falcom are simply laughable.
Oh, and the constant cutaways to the exterior of the obviously computer generated train are a sad way to kill time when the script has nothing to offer.
Without diving into a rant on digital filmmaking, let’s leave it at Night Train translates poorly to Blu-ray. That’s the key problem for this rather ugly AVC presentation. Presented in 1080i, detail suffers aside from extreme close-ups. Faces are flat pits of unnatural color. The film carries that indistinguishable look of being digitally processed, and the intentional blooming doesn’t help.
Black levels are fine, and color is relatively strong despite the sickly flesh tones. Night Train never looks natural.
A DTS-HD Master mix offers little beyond the train whipping by the camera to its destinations. Minor ambiance in the form of wind (the movie takes place during a heavy snowstorm) and occasional bump from rough tracks inside the cars are noted. Dialogue is fine if slightly muted. Very little action is present, keeping the movie front-loaded for most of its running time.
A decent making-of despite comparisons to classic films runs 23 minutes. Eight separate interview segments, poorly edited, run closer to a half hour. Both contain warnings about the low quality video and audio, blaming the source. A trailer and photo gallery are left.