Director: Ryuhei Kitemura (2008)
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Vinnie Jones, Leslie Bibb
Who on Earth would have thought that a fight sequence between Bradley Cooper and Vinnie Jones would make for riveting viewing? For that matter, who would have thought that any horror movie which stars Bradley Cooper or Vinnie Jones would be any way enjoyable? Well, in spite of all odds, Midnight Meat Train is a very good movie. Behind Hellraiser, I'd go as far as to say that it's my favourite Clive Barker movie. It helps, I suppose, that most Clive Barker movies are a little bit crummy.
But then Midnight Meat Train is directed by Rhuhei Kitemura, of Versus fame. He brings all the verve and splattery violence of that movie to this, the most unlikely of projects. It's an incredibly violent, gory movie, full of popped eyeballs, smashed skulls and nipples in jars. What it lacks for in subtlety, it more than makes up for with sheer fun.
A pre-hung over Bradley Cooper plays Leon, a freelance photographer promised a lucrative deal if he can capture the seedy 'heart' of the city. So in a silly move, he takes to the streets at night, photographing muggers, would-be rapists and - eventually - the serial killer Mahogany (Jones). Yes, Mahogany is a stupid name and Vinnie Jones is hardly a guarantor of quality, but Midnight Meat Train is still good. Honest, it is. The title comes from Mahogany's habit of murdering anyone who catches his train at night, hanging them up on butchers' hooks and chopping them to bits. It's realised that the key to making Jones not suck (or at least, suck less) is to not let him talk. So Mahogany doesn't have a tongue in this movie. Which is good. It means he can't say things like "I'm Mahogany, bitch."
Even without calling himself "Mahogany, bitch", it's a little hard to take Jones seriously. I do wish they'd gone with a different actor to play him (in Barker's original Books Of Blood, Mahogany is of a very different build), maybe an unknown or at least not a footballer. Not Vinnie Jones. Cooper is good; a lot better than you might expect from having seen The Hangover or The A-Team alone. I don't for an instant buy him being a match for Vinnie Jones in a fight (and what a fight; it lasts almost ten minutes and puts Freddy vs Jason to shame in the fisticuffs department), but he does well enough, all considered.
What almost derails (GEDDIT) the movie though, is its use of CGI. Midnight Meat Train has the worst use of CGI blood I have ever seen. It comes very close to ruining some of the kill scenes, which is a shame. But Kitemura brings so much skill to the direction that you'll forgive moments like these. There's even a cameo from Ted Raimi, which is just glorious.
Midnight Meat Train, then, is one train you definitely need to catch.