Tag Archives: vinnie Jones

Slipstream (2005)

Slipstream (2005)


Today’s review is on a little known 2005 time travel bank heist movie, and the second feature I’m spotlighting with the title of “Slipstream.”

“Slipstream” was directed by David van Eyssen, who interestingly doesn’t have any other directorial film credits. The writers, Phillip Badger and Louis Morneau, worked together previously on the 1997 film “Retroactive,” and each have a handful of credits to their names. Morneau in particular might be best known for directing the 1999 bomb, “Bats.”

The cinematography on “Slipstream” was provided by Sonke Hansen, a cinematographer and camera operator who has worked on films such as “Enemy At The Gates,” “Cloud Atlas,” and “Ninja Assassin.”

The special effects for “Slipstream,” which are somewhat extensive, were overseen by Mickey Kirsten. Kirsten has a solid handful of special effects credits since 2000, including work on “The Constant Gardener” and “Chronicle.”

slipstream052The “Slipstream” score was provided by one Rob Lord, who primarily provides music for video games (“Just Cause,” “Just Cause 2”) and a handful of television documentaries.

The cast of “Slipstream” is headlined by Sean Astin (“The Lord of the Rings”) and Vinnie Jones (“The Midnight Meat Train,” “Snatch”), who each play their usual character types of a timid hero and a heavy, respectively. Most of the acting weight of the movie falls on the two of them, as well as Ivana Milicevic (“Vanilla Sky”), who rounds out the minimal central cast.

slipstream051The story of “Slipstream” centers around Sean Astin’s character: a scientist who has helped develop a limited time travel device. In a baffling act that defies any kind of sense, he absconds with the device in order to flirt with a local bank teller, which apparently required time travel for him to pull off. The complication occurs when the bank is robbed by Vinnie Jones during Astin’s awful courting attempt, which rapidly snowballs into tragedy and subsequent time travel shenanigans.

“Slipstream” currently holds a score of 4.6 on IMDb, along with Rotten Tomatoes ratings of 34% (audience) and 0% (critics). Each score pulls from a relatively small sample size, but all of them are well into the negatives no matter how you cut it.

slipstream055While the special effects in “Slipstream” aren’t awful, especially given what I assume was a small budget, there are certainly a lot of overdone elements. In particular, there is an excess of slow motion sequences throughout the film, which are typically used to indicate the activation of the time travel device. However, it does become quite repetitive after it is used a couple of times.

The character writing in “Slipstream” is pretty far from fantastic. In particular, Astin’s character struck me as a total creep as opposed to just an awkward protagonist, which makes it harder to relate to him as the lead. There is also an attempt to get the audience to feel for Vinnie Jones’s villain character, which doesn’t make much sense given how ruthless and murderous he is throughout the story. It doesn’t help that the attempts to characterize him are pretty shallow, specifically through some awkwardly artificial banter between him and his partner about various crime movies.

slipstream053Personally, I feel like this movie would have been better if it never left the bank building, or at least not until the last act. The audience and characters don’t get much time to relate to the surroundings, which is usually one of the most fun aspects of time travel films. Instead of playing with the possibilities of the bank setting and the events of the robbery, the story winds up in a real rush to get away from the premise, which leads to it getting a bit off the rails. There is a reason this isn’t as highly regarded as films like “Run Lola Run” or “Groundhog Day.”

Perhaps the biggest issue with “Slipstream” is that the aspirations for the story exceeded the budget that was available to the team. While the effects aren’t bad for the money involved, the movie as a whole would have dramatically benefited from higher quality work. The whole movie just looks and feels cheaper than the interesting concept justifies. This isn’t just limited to the effects, either: but the casting, directing, and dialogue all seem to be stuck in the same boat.

Overall, “Slipstream” is a bit of a disappointment given the interesting premise. The trailer is frankly far more interesting than the movie itself. That said, despite all of the flaws with it, this is probably one of the better television science fiction movies from the era, and is a welcome change of pace from the various hybrid monster movies and “Lake Placid” sequels that were popping up at the time.

As far as a recommendation goes, this doesn’t quite fall into the realm of “good-bad.” It also isn’t anywhere near good, landing decidedly in the realm of mediocre. I don’t think it quite merits the low ratings it has, but it certainly doesn’t earn an overall positive score in my book. I’d generally advise skipping it, unless you are just a huge fan of time travel stories.


The Midnight Meat Train

The Midnight Meat Train


Today’s movie is a bit of deep cut (ha!): “The Midnight Meat Train,” starring Vinnie Jones and Bradley Cooper.

“The Midnight Meat Train,” which was written and produced by Clive Barker of the “Hellraiser” series, went through a brutal post-production and release process: between mandated cuts from the MPAA, budget limitations, and a major executive transition at Lion’s Gate (the departure of Peter Block), the movie hit significant delays, and only would up releasing in 100-odd theaters. Barker has described the experience of distributing the movie as “a journey into the real underbelly of Los Angeles.”

Apparently this is what distributing through Lion’s Gate is like

I first came across “The Midnight Meat Train” after it released On Demand through FEARnet (R.I.P.), and was of course hooked by the title. However, this is a film that goes far beyond just a catchy title: there is, perhaps surprisingly, a whole lot to like about this film.

“The Midnight Meat Train” was directed by Ryuhel Kitamura, a Japanese director who created “Godzilla: Final Wars” and the recent live-action adaptation of “Lupin III.” Kitamura was brought on after Patrick Tatopoulos, a creature creator and special effects guru who worked on “Underworld,” “I, Robot,” and “Trick ‘r Treat,” backed out of the production before filming began.

Kitamura described his vision for “The Midnight Meat Train” as being “the 80s way”: putting an emphasis on practical gore effects and tension, citing influences such as “The Hitcher,” “Hellraiser,” and “Friday the 13th.” In the commentary track on the film’s DVD, Kitamura specifically complains about the lazy and ineffective use of CGI gore in more recent horror movies, lamenting the days when practical effects were the only option. However, there is at least one distracting instance of CGI gore in “Midnight Meat Train,” which seems to be somewhat hypocritical.

meattrain8The cinematographer on “Midnight Meat Train,” Jonathan Sela, has recently received acclaim for his work on the cult action movie “John Wick.” His previous credits include “Max Payne,” “A Good Day to Die Hard.” and the remake of “The Omen”: none of which have quite the same flair or punch of “Midnight Meat Train” or “John Wick.”

The cast features most prominently character actor Vinnie Jones (“Snatch,” “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels,” “X-Men United”) towards the beginning of his down-slide, and Academy Award nominee Bradley Cooper just as his stock was growing (he was coming off of the antagonist role in “Wedding Crashers”). Cooper’s character is not unlike Jake Gyllenhaal’s in “Nightcrawler”: he is a scummy photographer who observes the dark side of the city, without ever positively interacting with it. Unlike Gyllenhaal’s character, though, Cooper’s has a slowly growing conscience that inflates over the course of the story. It makes the character a little more likable as he starts to make more moral choices as the movie goes on.

Vinnie Jones plays a stoic subway murderer and butcher named Mahogany, whose purpose and motivations are kept veiled throughout the film. This sort of “heavy” role is what has essentially made Vinnie Jones’s career, going all the way back to his Guy Ritchie crime movies. His dialogue is minimal, apparently based on input from the actor himself. It is hard to argue that the muteness doesn’t make his character more menacing.

The accessory cast includes horror stalwart Ted Raimi (brother of writer/director Sam Raimi), Leslie Bibb (“Iron Man”), Brooke Shields (“Endless Love”), Peter Jacobsen (“House, M.D.”), UFC fighter “Rampage” Jackson, and Tony Curran (“League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”). “Rampage” Jackson and Bradley Cooper would reunite only a couple of years later for the film remake of “The A-Team,” which might be worth a second look here on the blog.

meattrain3Clive Barker wrote the short story source material of “The Midnight Meat Train” based on an experience he had after first moving to New York City, in which he got lost while riding on a subway. The film manages to use the subway setting astoundingly to create tension and fear: everything from the screeching electrical sounds, to the sporadically flashing fluorescent lights, to the claustrophobic car space helps build the atmosphere for the film.

meattrain4Another one of my favorite aspects of “The Midnight Meat Train” is one that I think has gone particularly under-appreciated: the score. Music is absolutely crucial for building atmosphere effectively in horror movies, and the work done on “The Midnight Meat Train” is absolutely knocked out of the park. Robb Williamson and Johannes Kobilke deserve a lot of credit for this score. Here is one of my favorite tracks, “Leon Jumps on A Train”:

It is worth noting that the production design on “The Midnight Meat Train” is really fantastic, particularly given the budget restraints eventually leveled on the film. The set at the end of the film, which appears to be a cavern, is actually ingeniously made out of paper to keep costs down. Also of note, I personally think that Mahogany’s chrome hammer and meat hook are just damn slick, as is his simplistic, professional costuming. Everything down to his haircut is made to look rigid, pristine, and cold. You can just imagine how chilling that chrome hammer has to feel.

meattrain7Something else I appreciate about “The Midnight Meat Train” is that the audience gets to see the reactions of the locals to the series of murders. You see security tighten up on the subway as the film goes on, and there is even a great sequence where a vigilante Guardian Angel takes on Mahogany on the subway, and just about defeats him. You don’t usually get that kind of public anxiety coming through in horror movies, at least not done well. I was reminded a little bit of “Maniac Cop,” which also manages to pull off this public anxiety effect really well. It makes sense, though: a lot of people are afraid of using subways, which is something brought up in the film. Nothing makes a horror movie like laying the plot on top of a setting that is already terrifying to many people.

The film’s story offers a handful of pretty good twists that I don’t particularly want to spoil here. I will say that there is a sudden and unexpected turn that reminded me a lot of the cult classic “CHUD.” As strange as it is, the turn turn is pulled off pretty well through the use of creative editing, though there was also a financial motivation for not revealing the monsters too much. I actually think, much like with “Jaws,” that keeping the creatures scarce maintains their mysteriousness, and doesn’t ultimately hurt the movie. The writers and director still managed to come up with an impressive ending without their inclusion, which is worth checking out.

meattrain6As far as weaknesses go, the plot of “The Midnight Meat Train” goes in circles a little bit, and is definitely a slow burn as far as pacing goes. That doesn’t work for a lot of people, but overall I think that this is a really surprisingly good horror flick, and one that puts most recent entries into the genre to shame. I do wish that the handful of CGI gore sequences were replaced with practical effects, but there are also moments where the CG is pulled off excellently: notably, all of the external sequences of the subway cars in motion.

The critical reception for “The Midnight Meat Train” was pretty good for a horror movie, racking up¬† a 71% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience reception wasn’t quite as favorable: it currently has a 50% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 6.3 rating on IMDb. That doesn’t particularly surprise me, though: I feel like this movie is pretty well catered to horror die hards, and doesn’t have much in the way of mass appeal. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though.

Overall, this is an outstanding horror movie with only a handful of minor issues. The CG blood is disappointing and the pacing can be off-putting for some, but the atmosphere, style, score, and acting are all so fantastic that I think they make up for it. Even the story is far better than you would expect for a movie like this, even given how incredibly strange it is towards the end.

meattrain2My recommendation, for horror fans particularly, is to seek this one out. “Midnight Meat Train” got a raw deal on release, which meant most people didn’t get an opportunity to see it. The film relies on its cult status, word of mouth, and the secondary market for building a fan base, and it is totally worth the pick up in my opinion. It isn’t a fun movie though, and probably isn’t great for a group watch (as the title might lead you to believe). It isn’t a good-bad movie, but rather it is just a good horror movie. You should absolutely¬† just know what you are getting into with this one ahead of time: if you do, I’m confident that most will enjoy it.