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Really? It’s come to this? “The Midnight Meat Train”

October 21, 2013

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Is this happening? Am I really reviewing a movie called Midnight Meat Train? Really? How can this possibly end any other way than the expected one? Dear reader, do you honestly expect me to say “Midnight Meat Train is a triumph of American filmmaking that will make you forget The Godfather?”  Why am I even forced to watch, let alone review, a movie called Midnight Meat Train? What horrible choices did I make in life to bring me to this place? I’m serious. You don’t really see the darkness of the road you’ve chosen until you see the words Midnight Meat Train appear on an iPPad screen and you realize, “Holy shit, there’s a movie attached to this!”

And so there is. Lucky us. Oh, happy day. All right, let’s get this over with.

Leon Kauffman (Bradley Cooper) is a freelance photographer, chasing down accidents and crimes and snapping away with what looks to be the cheapest camera known to man (I’m not a photag, but shouldn’t cameras have flashes?) If he’d just stuck to that, we’d all be a lot happier in the end, but noooooooo… Anyway, Leon lives with his girlfriend Maya (Leslie Bibb), who manages to get him a meeting with some hoity-toity gallery owner (Brooke Shields), who basically tells Leon that his pictures suck and they need to be grittier. So Leon takes to the streets at night to capture the “real” city. One night in an empty subway station he comes upon a young woman (Erika Sakaki) about to be raped by some thugs. Leon snaps pics until the lead thug tries to force the girl to fellate him at knifepoint. Then he scares them off by pointing out the station’s security camera. They’re not very smart thugs.  The girl thanks Leon, then gets on a train, where she’s attacked by a huge guy in a nondescript suit with a dumb haircut who konks her on the head.

Hate to break it to you, but women who look like this do not ride the subway.

Hate to break it to you, but women who look like this do not ride the subway.

When Leon reads about the girl’s disappearance in the paper, he brings his photos to the cops. Hadley (Barbara Lyn Harris), the detective working Missing Persons, is unimpressed and seems to think Leon was somehow involved. Poor Leon. Later, he notices the big guy in one of his last photos of the girl, and he sets about finding him. Which, improbably, he does. Leon follows the guy around the city, to the fleapit hotel where he lives, to the meatpacking plant where he works. In his urban wanderings, Leon gets some great shots of the city’s gritty underbelly. The gallery owner is so impressed that she gives Leon his own showing. Leon is so happy he visits Maya at the diner where she works after closing (good for a cheap scare) and gives her a ring—not an engagement ring, he explains, “We’re engaged to be engaged. Until I have enough money to buy you a decent ring.” (Awwww…) He then further sentimentalizes the moment by sodomizing her over the diner’s counter (Awwww…)

So things are good for Leon. Trouble is, he’s becoming obsessed with following the butcher (meat packer? What’s the difference between a meat packer and butcher, anyway? I should Google that). He starts acting strangely; an avowed vegetarian, Leon begins eating meat, and he becomes more and more remote and anti-social. Maya attempts to cheer him up by letting him take naked pictures of her (Awwww…), but they both end up in tears. Leon’s fevered pursuit unearths missing-persons cases involving butchers that go back a hundred years. Finally, Leon ends up in the late-night train with the butcher in a separate car and watches as the butcher beats a couple riders to death and drags them into a rear car of the train. Leon watches and snaps pictures while the butcher strips them, shaves their bodies, rips out their teeth and nails and hangs them on meathooks in the train car. The butcher sees Leon and attacks him, knocking him unconscious. He briefly comes to when weird, alien hands fondle him (not making this up), then regains consciousness in the train station.

Seriously, dude, my phone has a better camera on it than that.

Seriously, dude, my phone has a better camera on it than that.

Leon staggers home, where he tells Maya about what he’s seen. Problem is, he lost his camera, which he needs to convince the police of what’s happening and he can’t go after it because that night is his opening. So, he goes to the opening, while Maya and her friend Jurgis (Roger Bart) break into the butcher’s apartment (okay, wait a minute…they know what building he lives in, but how do they know the room?) Anyway, in the room they find all sorts of big, steel knives and saws and nasty implements. Of course, the butcher comes home and catches them. Maya escapes, but Jurgis doesn’t. She runs to the cops, but Detective Hadley accuses Maya of breaking and entering. Maya decides to go after the butcher, so she goes back to the diner and steals the gun they keep under the counter. Outside the diner, Maya runs into Detective Hadley whom she intuits knows more about the case than she’s telling. Hadley tell her which platform to go to. “First train after two AM.” Okay, hang on…2:00 is not midnight. The movie is not Two A.M. Meat Train. I realize that doesn’t have the same consonance, but goddamn it, you can’t just go making shit up. If the title says Midnight Meat Train, there damn well oughta be a meat train at midnight, too.

"I'm the Jugg--oh wait, I'm screwing up the wrong movie there."

“I’m the Jugg–oh wait, I’m screwing up the wrong movie there.”

Okay, moving on: while this is happening, Leon is freaking out at his gallery and announces “I have a train to catch” before he races out into the night. He goes to the meatpacking company where the butcher works his day job and collects a metal apron and various knives, which he straps to his belt. It’s like the scene in every ‘80s action movie where the good guy loads his weapons. Only even stupider. So, he ends up on the (sigh) meat train as the butcher and Maya go mano a mano. Leon and the butcher face off, and it’s directed like a showdown. Cut to their weapons, cut to their squinty eyes, all that’s needed is Ennio Morricone’s score for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly in the background (do-do-do-do-dooo-Wah WAH wah). And they fight, meat-hammer vs. carving knife, amid the hanging corpses in the train. Maya is knocked unconscious, but the butcher is thrown from the train shortly before it pulls into its final station: a massive, eerily-lit cavern. As Leon tries to figure what’s going on, the conductor comes out of his little control-room thingee and delivers what has to be the best line of the movie. “Please,” he says genially, “step away from the meat.” How awesome is that? That’s going to be my new e-mail signature.

And then the monsters come out (they look sort of like the carnivores in The Descent). Leon drags Maya out of the train as the monsters begin to eat the bodies. Suddenly the butcher shows up (gasp!), and he’s wielding a knife. Fortunately, the cavern is littered with mounds and piles of bones, which come in pretty handy. So, after a little bone-fu, Leon gets the better of the butcher and finally decisively kills him. Then the conductor helpfully explains that they’ve been feeding people to the monsters for centuries to “keep the balance.” Then he rips out Leon’s tongue and cuts out Maya’s heart and offers it to Leon. “Now you will serve…without question.” The movie ends with Leon wearing the same nondescript grey suit and crappy haircut as the butcher, getting a train schedule from Detective Hadley, and getting aboard the train. Anyone not see that coming? Anyone?

Don't sweat it, Brad, I felt the same way after seeing "Limitless."

Don’t sweat it, Brad, I felt the same way after seeing “Limitless.”

Midnight Meat Train raises a lot of questions. Questions such as how it is the butcher and conductor are seemingly immortal? Are they aliens? Monsters? Does it have something to do with eating Maya’s heart? Because if it’s that one, I have to drop the bullshit flag. If eating someone’s heart made you immortal Idi Amin would still be with us. And while we’re at it, precisely how many people need to be fed to the subterranean monsters? Does one subway car full of corpses tide them over for a few weeks, or do they need one nightly? If it’s nightly, that’s a lot of people. Figure there were about ten in the subway car when they arrived at the cavern. Surely someone would notice if 3000 people vanished every year. What about Detective Hadley? Is she immortal, too? Is she in it alone, or are more cops involved—you’d think at some point, some supervisor would realize that the Missing Persons Bureau never finds anyone. And why is it necessary for the butchers to wear the suit and have the dumbass haircut? How does that make the process any easier?

The movie is based on a short story of the same title by Clive Barker, and I have no doubt the story works better compressed and on the page than it does bloated to 100 minutes and up there on the big screen. Where you, you know, actually have to see the meat train. And the monsters. It’s a nifty story concept, and writers going back to Hawthorne have played with the idea of cities—the seeming symbols of community and civilization–functioning in barter with evil, atavistic forces. Likewise, director Ryuhei Kitamura shows a genuine visual flair (the scene wherein Ted Raimi’s eyeballs pop out of his head is actually quite arresting), and unlike most directors working today, his action sequences have a sense of space and proximity. It’s just in the service and very, very dumb movie.

12 comments

  1. I guess it is a tradition for movie reviewers to call anything they don’t understand “dumb” to assert their intelligence. I wouldn’t say that the movie does not have any flaws but to call something “dumb” because you could not understand is the very definition of ignorance. First off “It’s like the scene in every ‘80s action movie where the good guy loads his weapons” yes is dumb based on logic but the actions were meant to foreshadow the change Leon is about to take which is the succession Mahogany, the butcher . Secondly, Immortals? Then what is the point of the succession ritual? Thirdly why are you so arrogant when you can’t even put a good in depth analysis together?


  2. You do realize “midnight doesn’t really mean exactly 12 at night? If that’s the case then it would barely last a second. Midnight is a reference to “middle of the night” – it can be anything after twelve to the wee hours of the morning! I can’t believe I read through a review, written by a child who doesn’t even know this.


  3. This isn’t a review. It’s some childish moron explaining the entire movie from beginning to end.

    Maybe put “Spoiler Alert” in your title next time?

    By the way “stupider” isn’t a word.. You uneducated fucking idiot.


  4. I am thinking of seeing this movie so I thought I’d look up some reviews first. But this review stopped me in my tracks and made me need to comment. It could be the WORST-written review I’ve ever read. A childish screed that doesn’t offer any analysis other than “I’m too good to review a movie I don’t think I’ll like” and then simply recaps the entire film with snarky comments along the way. No real criticism, no insight, no cogent arguments whatsoever.

    This is an all-time awful review.


  5. I immediately decided your review was bad after reading your first few sentences… (sound familiar? almost like your review?)

    If you aren’t going to try, then don’t do it.


  6. That camera itself cost about $9000. Without the lenses. Check your knowlege, not a photag 😉


    • Where in this universe are you getting $9,000 for a Leica M4??
      With $9,000 I could buy a handful of M4’s.


  7. You’re a funny writer, ignore the butt-hurt comments. Just watched it and it was quite awful. Not the worst…but close. Thanks for lightening the mood.


  8. This is not a review. It’s full of spoilers. I’m watching the movie as we speak for the very first time. If I’d ahve wanted to read the details about the plot of the movie, I’d have read Clive Barkers book. Otehr than that, you are not a reviewer.


  9. Why are all the comments here so salty? This may not be a “review” but it’s a hilariously accurate description of this movie


  10. For all of you complaining about the review….The movie was worse than the review. If I had read this article, I wouldn’t have wasted 2 hours of my life. I can never get that time back nor reverse my opinion of Bradley Cooper. He obviously has no common sense when it comes to choosing an agent or this piece of trash script would have never crossed his line of sight and ruined what I’m pretty sure isn’t just my opinion. Good luck to anyone who decides to go ahead and watch this in spite of this hilariously accurate and more than fair review. I guess monsters in the subway aren’t the only ones who gotta eat. Starving actors and producers/directors with no discretion for real art have to also.


  11. The camera is a Leica M4, still running about 1200.00 US Dollars without the lens! Research, then write . . . research, then submit your review . . .



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