'Night Train' by Shane Stanley Review: The modern, female answer to Drive
I figured that it would be inevitable that I come across a modern release that I just cannot bring myself to sit through. Sooner or later I would stumble across something that seems to have overwhelming negatives compared to positives. As of late I have been watching pretty much anything, regardless of genre and who made it. Much of these films I have somewhat enjoyed, finding strengths within them even if they aren't entirely my thing, even if in parts decisions in the story seem, well, weird. This film I have had on my list for a few days now, and I decided to finally check it out. Night Train. A film that displays a female protagonist holding a rifle in its poster. I didn't think much of it, assuming it would be a cheesy action flick with some similarities to the prior films I had seen.
Though ultimately Night Train ended up being the female answer to Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive from 2012. Sadly without all of the great points that made Drive so engaging and unique. Void of the soul and style that oozed from Drive with its music choices and story, and odd protagonist. Night Train seems to be heavily inspired by Drive, while trying to juggle a series of other reasons for its audience to supposedly remain engaged. But I just didn't feel any of it, none of it really felt aware of what it wanted to be beyond a female equivalent of Drive, but without the budget or the filmmaking awareness. It's hard to admit, but, Night Train was quite terrible. I'll definitely explain why, and avoid spoilers in case this all somehow makes you curious and want to check it out yourself. Though I'd advise you just spend that time elsewhere.
The film launched with a relatively rough introduction. Strange dialogue accompanied allowed us to get a glimpse of a character, of which was performed decently. Though the directing and cinematography made things awkward, weird close-ups when they were not necessary, and attempts at humour before we really even had an idea of what we were getting ourselves into in terms of the narrative. It lost me rather quickly, but things were far from terrible just yet. It was later as the story reached a quarter through its relatively short runtime where the film still hadn't really managed to get going. Things still seemed early and in it's introductory phase, roaming between characters while not really setting anything up or saying anything of weight.
I began to notice a stronger decline in the directing, as the scenes followed each other with very little direction. No sense as to what was really going on and what was happening. One scene would take place, the next would suddenly follow, and we would hop between scenes of effectively nothing. What absolutely did not help was totally awful use of music. Songs and ambience that just didn't suit the scenes, characters, and the events that were following the prior scenes. One song would end as another suddenly starts, with no real gaps between them to serve as pacing. It became a wide range of attempts at emotion and structure but none of it came together. Its narrative was still going nowhere as it juggled characters and events that didn't really propel anything forward. Suddenly we get a montage of two characters dancing, the next a serious bit of dialogue which is performed incredibly awkwardly, followed by handled cinematography displaying a car scene.
To make things worse was a total disregard for lighting in much of the scenes. It looked as if the lighting was just ignored to save budget in much of the shots, and the camera was definitely not something a bit more up to modern standards when it comes to filmmaking. You could see the drop in quality coming from certain scenes; where interiors may have a bit more attention to lighting, and other scenes just feel void of colour and substance. Typically I can overlook poor sound design or poor lighting, but when the two come together it is hard to get immersed in the story, especially when the story too is rather weak. Very little makes sense as a result of all of this. We have a very confusing, juggled story that doesn't quite know what it wants to be, with a directing style that definitely displays a lack of experience and awareness of how to structure a story. Instead holding snippets of ideas from films they like while trying to tell their own, and that just does not work, ever.
It's hard to say what I think would make this film better. It seems doomed from the start. With everything needing to be better. Which is strange given it seems to have had a decent budget to get some of the shots they used, but definitely suffering in terms of funding almost everywhere else. For context, our narrative surrounds a single mother struggling to support her child. From a storytelling perspective, it would be wise to introduce this child to the audience and display the hardships the mother has to face, the inability to provide constantly and the desperate measures taking place in order to get him the medicine he needs. We don't really see any of this; and it should've been made evident very early on. We should have been given reasons to care for our characters, to see the struggles and have something with emotion to latch ourselves to. Something that then would heighten things and give the story some weight.
Without structure comes a flat story, one we can't feel anything towards. This is the fate of Night Train, and while I am sure it picks up a bit and the action comes on in, does it really matter at that point if we have no reason to care? I found myself incapable of finishing the film out of total boredom. An inability to really care to find out what happened next. While much of the filmmaking wasn't great, the final decision to just stop watching was a story void of awareness. Not knowing what it wants to say and how. The result here being that it doesn't cafe for the time its audience has to spend, assuming you have plenty of it to stick around and see whether it was all worth it or not. It failed to grab my attention, and even at the halfway mark I still felt it. Only growing more impatient and disappointed with each minute that passed. With these reviews I try to mention a few positives, because often enough bad films are bad, but have tried something and achieved something of moderate decency. I think I'd have to put all the positives on the actors, for their performances were greater than the filmmaking. It wasn't necessarily their performances that were weak, but the characters they were presented with, with poor directing and poor writing.
It is a shame given the idea isn't terrible; a single mother struggling to support her child, willing to do whatever it takes to get him what is needed. Showing the contrast between caring as a mother, and the total aggression towards ensuring the child gets what they need. But that's the problem: you need that contrast. You need to show emotion and range to reach the audience.
Greetings friends, this is the first time I hear of this production that you share with us, however, sometimes we find this kind of movies, where one has a great expectation and in the end it is not the best, for various things and aspects of the film, as you say emotion, action and how it develops. Now you will have to look for another one and sit down to watch it. Thanks for sharing it with us.
I didn't really have any expectations for it, and still came out disappointed, haha.
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Sounds like a beginner writer except film (ahh I remember doing stupid stuff like that x_x).
That's definitely how it felt. I've seen a few like this recently, I check their IMDB pages and their experience is relatively thin. It's quite telling though, just from watching the films.