Two escaped convicts and a railway worker end up
trapped on a speeding train with no brakes and no engineer.
Runaway Train (1985)
Directed by Andrey Konchalovskiy
Written by Akira Kurosawa, Djordje Milicevic,
Paul Zindel, Edward Bunker
Starring Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, Rebecca De Mornay,
John P. Ryan, Kyle T. Heffner, Kenneth McMillan
Oscar Nominations - Best Actor (Jon Voight),
Best Supporting Actor (Eric Roberts), Best Film Editing
Before appearing in four Baby Geniuses films and hunting a big snake with a horrendous accent, Jon Voight was a talented, respected actor. I can honestly say I'd never seen him give a performance like this before, in a movie penned by Akira Kurosawa and directed by a Russian theater guy who happened to do Tango & Cash. By all accounts, this film is a bizarre nexus of talent that just works. Even the score has vibes of John Carpenter, which I particularly enjoyed. The story is engaging as hell, from the prison scenes to the intensity of the train scenes. How did I overlook this for so long?
We begin in a dirty prison run by a sadistic warden (Ryan). He's kept vicious criminal Manny (Voight) in solitary for three years. He even welded his cell shut do he couldn't escape, which Manny had done three times. Under a court order, the warden is forced to release Manny back into gen pop. Of course, Manny, with the help of wide-eyed fellow prisoner Buck (Roberts), immediately escapes. Manny and Buck wind up on a freight train, but the engineer falls off the train. Now, the train is speeding towards a chemical plant with no brakes and no driver. Somehow, Manny, Buck, and a train worker who got left behind (De Mornay) have to break into the engine room and stop the train. Also, the warden is hunting them down. There's never a dull moment, and the two seemingly barely connected stories really do mesh quite well.
Runaway Train is a awesome action thriller that highlights one of Jon Voight's best performances. Eric Roberts is good too, though I don't know if he was Oscar worthy. Regardless, the film is an 80s gem that I somehow had never heard of prior to digging into Jon Voight for the podcast. Definitely check this one out.