Pros: Great cinematography, dark urban feel, great performances, Cooper and Jones.
Cons: It's torture porn. That pretty much says everything.
The Midnight Meat Train (2008) Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura Based on a short story by Clive Barker.
Leon Kauffman: She didn't like my work.
Jurgis: She gave you three minutes. People whose work she doesn't like, she usually gives one.
Leon Kauffman (Bradley Cooper) is an aspiring photographer. His life is okay, struggling to get by with his girlfriend Maya (Leslie Bibb) but he wants more. So when a friend introduces him to gallery owner Susan Hoff (Brooke Shields) he is very excited. Her advice pushes him to fearlessly pursue the heart of the city; not stop with one picture, but tell a story in a series. When Leon sees a beautiful woman (Nora) being hassled by punks, he snaps away, and just before it gets out of hand, intervenes pointing out to the thugs they are on surveillance cameras. The pictures he got are sharp and edgy, and exactly what Susan Hoff is looking for.
But when the girl shows up missing, Leon is intrigued. But he needs a new project; something that will show the beating heart of the city. A figure captures his attention, well dressed, his clothes at odds with his rough features, carrying a doctor's bag (Vinnie Jones). He follows him, a fact that is objected to. Leon gets a close up look at his ring, adorned with eight stars, because the mysterious figure latches hold of him, a silent ‘go away or be FUBAR'. But Leon is hooked. He needs two more series to get a show at Susan's. And so he starts following the stranger, falling deeper and deeper into obsession. His target appears to be named Mahogany, and he works as a butcher.
What he does not know, and we do, is that Mahogany has a nightly ritual. He catches the last subway train, waits until it empties out, and then slaughters who ever is left on the train. Further, Leon's investigations indicate it is possible he has been doing this for a hundred years. Worse, the cops are not only less than helpful, they are suspicious of his motives in reporting what he knows. Even when he discovers the eight starred ring on a hand holding the door for the missing girl in the last photograph of her. The mystery only deepens, drawing him deeper and deeper into the darkness festering under the city.
While this plot sounds interesting, the execution was not to my taste. If you are a gore fan, you will love this, watching Vinnie smack Ted Raimi so hard on the back of the head with his butcher's hammer, that his eyeballs literally pop out. There is gore galore, buckets of blood, and painful dismemberments. Some people would call this a scary movie. I call it torture porn.
And that really ruins it for me. There was great character development; showing how Leon grew ever more obsessed, how Maya fought to save him from himself, even Vinnie's performance as the uber-creepy Mahogany. In the entire movie, he says one word..."Welcome." Really great. But all this is washed aside in the sadistic dismemberment of his victims. Some things, I prefer to have inferred, and let my imagination do the work; not here. You get to see every rise and fall of the cleaver, and the bits flying about amongst the arterial spray. There are some who will think this a masterpiece. I am not one of them.