Wednesday 3 January 2018

Movie Review: Money Train (1995)

A buddy cops action thriller, Money Train is overcooked and underwhelming.

John (Wesley Snipes) and Charlie (Woody Harrelson) are bickering foster brothers who both work as undercover cops for the New York City transit authority. John is confident and has his life in order. Charlie is a free spirit, always in trouble and depends on John to bail him out. They both manage to infuriate railway operations chief Donald Patterson (Robert Blake). And when fellow officer Grace (Jennifer Lopez) joins their enforcement unit, both brothers decide to romantically pursue her.

Charlie runs afoul of poker game loan sharks and finds himself $15,000 in debt. Grace becomes a wedge between the brothers, and John grows tired of saving Charlie from himself. Meanwhile a psychotic arsonist known only as Torch (Chris Cooper) is on the loose in the subway. With the world closing in on him Charlie begins to dream of hijacking the nightly money train that collects the system's fare revenue.

Directed by Joseph Ruben, Money Train is bloated yet empty. Despite decent production values, everything here is heightened to childhood levels of exaggeration. The action scenes involving Torch and the climactic train heist are wildly over-the-top, defying all laws of logic and physics. The villainy of Patterson reaches caricature levels, the bickering between the brothers is contrived, and the three-way lust triggered by Grace splatters all over the screen, based on nothing more than one woman arriving to work alongside two men.

After the success of 1992's White Men Can't Jump, this was an attempt to nurture the on-screen buddy chemistry between Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson. The screenplay by Doug Richardson and David Loughery overplays its hands and asks too much of the actors. John and Charlie engage in scene after scene of predictable verbal sparring lacking in wit and originality, and it all grows tired and old very quickly.

And when it comes to the action set-pieces, Ruben appears oblivious that more can be less, and much more disintegrates into nothingness. Bodies are summarily dangled off high rises, bullets fly on passenger-filled subway platforms, and in the name of seeking the next cheap on-screen thrill, every safety protocol is broken by cops who should know better. And when the climax arrives, Charlie's hairbrained idea to hijack a highly secured train is a most unconvincing screen heist in both planning (none to speak of) and rational cinematic execution (botched).

Money Train superficially looks good and makes decent use of elaborate sets recreating the New York subway system. But this is an otherwise bumbled movie, a child's clumsy fist rummaging through what could have been an elegant train set.

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