Review of “The Girl on the Train”

Rachel (Emily Blunt) is a broken woman. Her marriage to Tom (Justin Theroux) ended badly after they were unable to conceive a baby and Rachel began treating the depression with alcohol. She would black out and Tom would tell her all the violent things she did. He began an affair with Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) who he eventually married after divorcing Rachel. He and Anna have a six-month old named Evie. Rachel rides the commuter train into the city every day and is able to see her old house through the window. She also sees the house next door and makes up stories about the young couple living there. That is Megan and Scott (Haley Bennett and Luke Evans). Rachel has seen them having sex through the big window of their house that faces the tracks and believes they are a perfect couple; but that isn’t the case as Megan is restless and doesn’t want to have a baby despite Scott’s wishes. Megan sees psychiatrist Dr. Kamal Abdic (Edgar Ramirez) and tells him all her secrets and desires and how Scott is an emotional bully. On her daily commute, Rachel sees Megan on the porch in the arms of another man. Distraught, Rachel gets very drunk and plans on confronting Megan about the apparent infidelity. The next day, Rachel wakes up after blacking out, covered in blood and discovers Megan has gone missing. Is she responsible? What happened in the hours she can’t remember?

Based on a book by the same name, “The Girl on the Train” is a twisty, slow-burn thriller that had the potential of being a very good movie. It has lots of sex, infidelity, lies, misdirection and substance abuse and could have really kept the audience guessing about whodunit. Sadly, all the mystery of the mystery is exposed far too early and the story is strangely uninvolving despite being made very complicated and with a fairly large cast of characters.

The cast isn’t to blame for the shortcomings of “The Girl on the Train.” Emily Blunt’s Rachel is about as sad and pathetic as any character in any film I’ve ever seen. Her investment in the lives of Megan and Scott, two people she’s never met, is about the only thing holding her anywhere close to together. When she sees what she perceives as Megan’s betrayal of Scott it turns her into a member of the drunken morality police and marks her rock bottom. It is a performance that must have been taxing for Blunt as it required so much raw emotion, so much crying and at times so much naked honesty from the character. Blunt manages to make Rachel both annoyingly pathetic and someone you want to wrap up in a tight hug.

Rebecca Ferguson plays Anna, the “other woman,” like a creepy Stepford wife. She is all about raising her child and maintaining her home and anything that interferes with that is met with a look that implies she is plotting your death. Ferguson is kind of the heavy of the story for a while and is fairly easy to dislike. Her jealousy of Rachel doesn’t make her any more pleasant. For this character it is an effective performance.

Haley Bennett plays Megan like a bit of a spoiled child. Megan admits to being restless and she’s always comparing her life now to what it was like when she was 17 and living in a hunting cabin with her boyfriend. It is a pivotal part of the story that eventually leads to the tragic events that play out. Bennett, who bears a striking resemblance to Jennifer Lawrence, has a smoldering sexuality that is a good match for the character. She looks both innocent and seductive at the same time. It’s a delicate balance that Bennett uses to her full advantage.

The rest of the cast is impressive as well. What doesn’t work in “The Girl on the Train” is the arm’s length way the story is told. I never felt invested in these characters. The story meanders, jumping back and forth in time, filling in backstory leading the audience up to the events of Megan’s disappearance and juxtaposing that with what’s going on in Rachel’s life as she’s trying to pull herself back together while also befriending Scott. The story becomes a tornado of information that is mixed together in a haphazard way. Perhaps the disjointed narrative made emotionally investing in these characters impossible or maybe the script didn’t stick closely enough to the book to give us the depth of feeling for the people we learn so much about. Whatever the reason, “The Girl on the Train” feels like a static display in a museum: All the information about the subject is in front of you but it lacks any life.

“The Girl on the Train” is rated R for violence, sexual content, language and nudity. There are several brief sex scenes. The most graphic nudity is mostly backsides. All other body parts are imaginatively hidden. Violence is scattered but bloody. Foul language is also scattered.

“The Girl on the Train” is somewhat intriguing until a revelation from Rachel’s past mostly exposes who is responsible for Megan’s disappearance with about a half hour left in the film. After that, you’re just waiting on that character’s inevitable comeuppance. Watching the film from that point on makes it a bit annoying. Thrillers shouldn’t give you the real villain until much later. After all the information we are given about these five main characters, knowing who is responsible so early makes all that comes before it seems wasted. “The Girl on the Train” has the potential to be a mind-bendingly complicated and involving thriller but it seems to take the road most travelled from the train to the conclusion.

“The Girl on the Train” gets three disappointed stars out of five.

Number crunchers, joke slingers and reluctant power wielders are invading your local multiplex. I’ll see at least one of the following:

The Accountant—

Kevin Hart: What Now?—

Max Steel—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

Review of “The Magnificent Seven”

Matthew and Emma Cullen (Matt Bomer and Haley Bennett) live in the small frontier community of Rose Creek. The nearby gold mine is owned by Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and he wants to force out all the residents of Rose Creek and take over the entire valley. During a meeting at the church of many of the town’s residents, Bogue walks in and offers only $20.00 per property to the remaining families. His cadre of armed men forces everyone into the street and set the church on fire. When Matthew stands up to Bogue, Bogue pulls out a gun and kills him. Since the town’s sheriff is on Bogue’s payroll, nothing is done to stop his reign of terror. Emma rides to the next town and witnesses a bounty hunter named Chisolm (Denzel Washington) wipe out a bar full of outlaws and ask him to help her. Initially reluctant Chisolm agrees when he hears Bogue is involved. His first recruit is a hard-drinking poker player named Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt). Then they find an outlaw named Rulfo Vasquez (Manuel Garcia), Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Billy Rocks (Lee Byung-hun), Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Native American Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). The group heads to town and quickly wipes out all of Bogue’s men. The sheriff is left alive and Chisolm sends him to tell Bogue what happened and challenge him to return to town and face Chisolm. The seven convinces the townspeople to join them and prepare for the coming bloodthirsty hired gunmen that Bogue will lead to town.

“The Magnificent Seven” is a remake of a 1960 film of the same name that starred Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen and Eli Wallach. It was recently named for preservation by the Library of Congress and the soundtrack contains one of the most recognized, used and copied theme songs in the history of film. While this modern version may not be quite the classic of its predecessor, director Antoine Fuqua and writers Nic Pizzolatto and Richard Wenk have delivered an entertaining and, to some extent, thought provoking film.

The cast is full of people (with a few exceptions) you’ve seen in many, many other films and TV shows. From lead actors Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt to character players like Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio and Peter Sarsgaard, the entire group of main actors is spot on and firing on all cylinders. Both Washington and Pratt play characters with silent strength and menace but in different ways. While Washington’s Chisolm is a man viewed as dangerous on first meeting, Pratt’s Faraday is more like comic relief until there’s a threat and then he is a force to be reckoned with.

Vincent D’Onofrio steals the film in every scene he’s in. A bear of a man with a disarming high, squeaky voice, D’Onofrio’s Horne quotes scripture as he’s driving a knife repeatedly into the body of one of Bogue’s henchmen. The contrast is disarming and makes anything Horne does a bit of a surprise. I would have liked to see more of Horne in the movie and Fuqua (or someone else) could maybe make a solo film of Horne’s life prior to him joining the seven.

Peter Sarsgaard’s Bogue is a character that does nothing but evil throughout the film and it almost feels like he’s too much of a villain to have lived as long as the character has. Someone that evil must have made more than a few enemies over the years and someone should have taken him out before now. Still, Bogue is a great villain for this movie. He’s easy to despise and impossible to root for. He appears unstoppable with all the wealth and resources necessary to wipe the town and its people off the map. Bogue, like Chisolm and Faraday, is quietly dangerous. He listens to someone’s complaint then quickly makes the decision to take the life of whoever is complaining. He doesn’t tolerate failure or cowardice in others despite letting surrogates do his dirty work for him. He walks into town surrounded by half a dozen or more ruthless killers and shoots an unarmed man. He has succeeded by intimidation, theft and murder. For him, it is simply the way he does business.

Speaking of business, Bogue gives a speech early in the film that implies the writers and director had a political agenda they were trying to get across. Bogue talks about how capitalism is kind of a religion and the townspeople are violating God’s law by standing in the way of Bogue’s empire. If one applies this bit of thinking to the rest of the film, it might seem like Antoine Fuqua and the screenwriters are looking at the story as an allegory for the struggle of the working class against the power and control of big business. The seven fighters brought in to try and dismantle the greedy corporate interest could be seen as labor unions using whatever means necessary to make the company treat the workers with respect and to share the wealth. This might be me putting too much thought into a minor plot point but the sledgehammer-like subtlety of this monologue seemed to have been purposeful.

“The Magnificent Seven” is rated PG-13 for extended and intense sequences of Western violence, and for historical smoking, some language and suggestive material. The shootout that ends the film is probably close to 30 minutes long. There are numerous scenes of people being shot, some bloodier than others. There are also scenes with people being killed by arrows. The suggestive material is very mild and brief. Most of the characters are shown smoking at some point. The language is mild and widely scattered.

Despite what felt like a ham-handed attempt at social commentary, “The Magnificent Seven” powers through to deliver a fun and exciting Western adventure. With massive explosions, huge gunfights, bad guys with bad aim, galloping horses and majestic scenery, the film is a kind of throwback to an earlier time when the good guys and bad guys were easy to identify, the ladies in the saloon were always hookers with a heart of gold and the townspeople needed a good kick in the butt to make them see they needed to fight for their futures. It may not be perfect but it was fun.

“The Magnificent Seven” gets five guitars out of five.

This week a couple of movies based on true stories and the return of Tim Burton arrive in a multiplex near you. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Deepwater Horizon—

Masterminds—

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.