Narrow Margin (1990) is a remake of a fondly remembered B-movie that became a real sleeper hit. It does not match the original for suspense or excitement, but it does boast a truly towering performance by Gene Hackman who takes the Charles MacGraw role and gives it everything he's got.
The story is about a DA from L.A, who travels to a mountain cabin in Canada to pick up a female murder witness. Some baddies follow him (because they want to kill the witness), but he manages to escape with her as far as the local railway station. They board an overnight train, bound for Vancouver, and spend the next day or so evading the killers on the train.
Hackman is quite brilliant, whether delivering panicky dialogue in a whisper or indulging in some violent action atop the speeding express. James B. Sikking makes a chilling assassin. Anne Archer is convincing as the vulnerable and terrified witness who would rather be anywhere other than where she is. Director Peter Hyams packs in some solid action sequences, such as a nerve-jangling car chase through a forest, and a savage fight on the roof of the train.
Where this film falls short is in the suspense department and the pacing. There are moments where Hackman and Archer are allowed to relax too much. One scene in particular involves Hackman and Sikking having a lengthy conversation at a dinner table; when Hackman leaves, you'd expect them to follow him to her, but they don't. There's another bit where the action jumps from about 1 a.m. to the next morning, without any indication of what kind of events have taken place during the night. There's also a lot of long shots of the lovely scenery, but to get the claustrophobic atmosphere the maker's needed to emphasise the inside of the train, not the outside landscapes. It's a pretty good film, but there are just a few things about it which drag it down a peg or two.
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