The Midnight Meat Train is a film that I saw when I was in college. I neither had my blog at that time nor any inclination to writing but it was one film that I talked about to my friends probably zillion time. The reason for that was simple. This is a film that takes macabre to a whole new level. There are buckets of blood on the floor and on the hands of the antagonist if at all you can call him so but amidst all that chaos there is somewhere a very affecting and effective thriller that doesn’t give itself away until the very end.
Written by Clive Barker, The Midnight Meat Train chronicles the journey of Leon (Bradley Cooper), a photographer who is trying to capture the heart of his city. His pursuit takes him to secluded and dangerous places, especially at night. It is here that e crosses path with the butcher who he believes is responsible for the disappearance of a large number of individuals throughout the city. His search takes him closer and closer to the butcher and as he tries to uncover the truth behind the disappearance he can’t help but feel a sense of change in himself and the life that he lives.
Many will pan Midnight Meat Train for being nothing more than a slasher flick which its makers intended it to be. But under the surface of being a slasher flick, this film works pretty well as a standalone thriller. There is very little known about the Modus Operandi of the butcher or for that matter why he is murdering all these people. As Leon goes after him, the film keeps you at the edge of your seats as he falls from one frying pan to the other playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with the butcher.
My favorite parts are the ones where Leon is chasing the butcher and at the same time some interesting changes start happening in his own life. The scene where he converts from being a vegetarian to a non-vegetarian is shocking. The director masterfully builds up to this scene from the very beginning where he is shown eating tofu instead of steaks.
Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura, the film has a very “Japanese slasher flick” feel to it. The most Japanese the film feels like when we see the action sequences in the train. The blue-ish hues, the neon glows and the steel laden ambiance is unmistakably Japanese. The Japanese sensibility of Kitamura makes its way into the film every now and then and that in many ways prove to be a fairly good thing for the film as it rids the film of the American easy going attitude even in a tale as serious as this one. The film also has the courage to kill off major characters which are another huge plus for the film.
Bradley Cooper is one of the premier actors of these days. But back in 2008 when this film came out, he wasn’t as big. But that doesn’t stop him from turning in a terrific performance. The strength of his performance lies in the scenes where he is trying to uncover the mystery and at the same time losing himself to a calling. It isn’t easy to predict what will come next but he successfully gives hints through his act about what was coming next.
Vinnie Jones as the butcher is perfect. He is not only scary but very mysterious. Right until the end of the film, we do not know why is doing what he is doing and that makes him doubly mysterious. Leslie Bibb plays Cooper’s love interest. There is a scene where she tries to lure Leon out of his mysteries by doing a strip shoot. As Leon clicks one image after the other, all he can see is the butcher in snaps. This scene is extremely well acted by her as her expressions feel genuine. Her act towards the end gets better and much more important.
For all those getting into this film, it is important that you know that this is a bleak and upsetting film which is totally devoid of any sense of satisfaction. Major characters die and there is blood everywhere. This film has so much violence and gore that after a point it even got to me. Hence for all those who are not much into blood and gore, this should be a strict no no. Also, the film’s ending does leave a lot to be desired. It is not exactly made clear what the purpose of the mayhem was for and the story culminates in a hurry towards the end. The character arc of Leon is also a tad bit too much to fathom.
Having said all that, The Midnight Meat Train is still an engrossing watch. I liked the film as a kid and I like it just as much today. Keeping aside the flaws, this film will still merit a view or two for its engrossing content, story and the sheer amount of gore that it puts out. A must watch in my book.
Rating : 3/5 (3 out of 5 Stars)