Gene Hackman is razor-sharp and in fine form here as a Deputy District Attorney who accompanies frightened murder witness Carol Hunnicutt (Anne Archer) on an eventful train ride through the wilds of British Columbia. You see, Carol had watched from the bathroom while mobster Leo Watts (Harris Yulin) and one of his many henchmen (Canadian character actor Nigel Bennett) rubbed out her blind date (the too briefly seen J.T. Walsh). Caulfield (Hackman) tracks Carol down, but these many henchmen are right on their heels, and turn up on the train. Said goons are confident that it's only a matter of time before they find her, although one supposed thing that Caulfield and Carol have in their favour is that the bad guys don't know what she looks like.
Veteran filmmaker Peter Hyams, well known for diversions like "Capricorn One" and "2010" remakes the 1952 film noir classic with surprisingly engaging results. It doesn't quite have the same stark atmosphere, or sense of menace, but it still displays some genuine tension, has some terrific action set pieces (especially on top of and outside the train), and also has some pretty amusing dialogue by Hyams. Hyams, who's served as his own cinematographer since the early 80s, does tend to under light scenes at times, a common element in his work. But he gives it some great pace; even though this version runs about 25 minutes longer than the 1952 one, it doesn't meander and gives us a number of compelling scenes. Particularly strong are conversations between Hackman and James B. Sikking (a regular in Hyams' filmography), who plays one of the goons, and between Hackman and Archer. The latter does a wonderful job of humanizing her, since it is possible that some people might not find her sympathetic enough before that point.
Hackman is always fun to watch, and he makes for a solid hero. Archer is a delight, as usual. J.T. Walsh has one of *his* most sympathetic roles in a movie (he was often relegated to sleazy, white-collar criminal types), and he of course is great. So is M. Emmet Walsh, even if he's also under utilized as the detective who accompanies Caulfield to Carols' hideout.
Ultimately, this movie version doesn't pull off its twists as well as the 1952 version, but it has enough entertainment value to make it well worth a viewing.
Eight out of 10.
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