Upon its initial theatrical release there was an uproar amongst genre fans as to why it only played at about one theatre. I myself was one of these fans, I couldn't understand why Lionsgate decided to treat the movie so badly. It certainly had a lot of potential, being as it is based on a Clive Barker story, is directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (Azumi, Versus) and stars bad boy Vinnie Jones, who let's face it was born to play a serial killer.
Having now seen the movie I can sort of see why. It's not a bad movie, not at all, but it is the sort of movie that will take viewers by surprise in context to its conclusion. I personally thought the ending was plenty fucked up, but it is not for mass consumption. That being said, place this next to other genre releases of 2008, such as The Happening, Mirrors and to a lesser degree Saw 5, and it pisses all over them.
The story follows Bradley, who is a photographer living in the city, who is trying to get his work shown in a gallery. However, the owner is not totally convinced with his work, and wants him to get down and dirty with it; to truly capture the essence of the city. This results in him taking pictures of a woman who is being mugged. He does eventually help her, however, after helping her she gets onto a subway train, only to come face-to-hammer with Mohagany (Vinnie Jones), and is never seen again.
Bradley slowly gets drawn into trying to uncover the disappearance, and subsequently finds himself tracking down Mohagany.
First and foremost The Midnight Meat Train is a brutal movie. When Mohagany's hammer connects, it really does connect. Eyeballs pop out, heads either cave in or come off completely. Believe me, if you don't like hard brutal violence you will probably get turned off. Mind you, if you have seen either Versus or Azumi you will know what to expect from Kitamura; hard sharp cuts with a lot of punch and plenty of blood.
The story itself is also quite nicely done, I found myself intrigued as to why Jones' character is butchering folk, even when the movie's pace lagged, and it does in parts i'm afraid. Not too much though, and any scene with Jones' in is absolutely mesmerizing; I can't believe this is the same guy that used to play football a few years back, he really is nailing the parts he gets.
Saying that, due to the strength of Jones' performance, in which he only speaks one word during the entire movie, the other actors performances did seem to suffer slightly in comparison. Leon Kaufman, as Bradley, did do a fairly decent job, especially towards the end, but mostly came across as a bit of a wimp, albeit one with large cahones. The rest of the cast pretty much just serve as filler.
Visually, The Midnight Meat Train looks awesome, the scenes on the train in particular look great, and the movie is cut in such a way that I just got swept along. Mind you I am a fan of the directors work, so I expected nothing less.
Overall, The Midnight Meat Train IS recommended. It's a brutal and bloody affair that will hit you with a few good punchs, before knocking you the fuck out come the final few scenes. The movie might not go where you expect it to go, but that is a good thing right? Fuck yeah it's a good thing!
Rating 3 stars
Review by Jude Felton