Midnight Meat Train

Year: 2008
Studio: Lionsgate
Director: Ryûhei Kitamura
Producer: Clive Barker
Writer: Jeff Buhler/Clive Barker
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Vinnie Jones, Leslie Bibb, Brooke Shields

All I knew about this movie (or so I thought) was that it was about a murderer that stalks the New York subway. It was indeed about that, but much more – in fact so much more it goes right off the rails (see what I did there?)

Bradley Cooper is photographer Leon, a guy struggling with his creative identity who gets a shot with a big time gallerist (Brooke Shields, looking every bit as beautiful as ever). When she seems to sum up his entire problem in their initial crushing meeting – he just won't take the leap and snap real danger and real urgency – he goes off in search of the dark, bloody soul of the city.

When he takes pictures of a pretty young girl being menaced by a gang of thugs prior to seeing them off, she later turns up dead, and Leon starts to suspect a well-dressed, unhappy-looking man he's seen on the subway (Jones).

Leon starts to follow the guy through the city, learning his habits as he works in a meat packing plant by day and spends the night riding the subway. When he wonders if the guy's the killer and becomes determined to catch (and photograph) him in the act, all it does it draw him into a dangerous world he has no idea exists.

I won't spoil anything by talking about the secret behind the killer's mission or where the entire premise leads, but the sci-fi direction the whole thing goes on made sense when I saw later that it was based on a Clive Barker short story.

The shift in tone gradually takes hold and the result is that when the movie ends, it's very different from the one you sat down to. While there are far too many movies that stick to strict genre conventions, the opposite can also be a problem – as Midnight Meat Train is when it floats off into the Twilight Zone.

As it does, the real-world motivations of the characters become similarly flighty, and the strong (albeit unfocused) narrative of the film until that point falls in a heap.

Like many people, I was probably taken in by the promise of a modern day Maniac , but Jones' square-jawed, expressionless monster and his weapon of choice (a fearsome butchering hammer) is only one aspect of a very freewheeling story.

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