Review by Ryan
Cannon probably enjoyed its finest hour with the heralded 1985 release of Runaway Train, an ice-encrusted, hate-blasted, flesh-ripping ride into cackling immortality. A hybrid prison-escape-disaster film as a savage allegory for the human condition, it showcases raging Jon Voight in his greatest-ever role as Manny, a convict Christ or satanic savior, the embodiment of the indomitable spirit of revolt and an inspiration to all of the “animals” and “pieces of human waste” locked up with him in an Alaskan prison. Escaping with him into the unforgiving wilderness is blabbermouth Buck, played by Eric Roberts as a variation on his lovably erratic cretin character from the previous year’s The Pope of Greenwich Village. Together they board a zombie train that hurtles them in the direction of doom for them and amazement for the viewer as both the locomotive and the pace of their lives take on an unstoppable hell-momentum. Pursuing the pair is Warden Ranken, intensely portrayed by John P. Ryan, who would go on to lend his menace to subsequent Cannon actioners like Avenging Force and Death Wish 4: The Crackdown. Ranken is the obsessively driven Captain Ahab of the piece and prompted one critic to fittingly dub the movie Moby Diesel. Manny, however, will know liberation and mastery of his fate if only in the plunge into glorious, violently redemptive obliteration. Originally conceived by Japanese auteur Akira Kurosawa, who intended to film Runaway Train in 1966 with Peter Falk as the protagonist, the project was resuscitated by Cannon with writer and ex-convict Edward Bunker enhancing the criminal authenticity of the script and Return of the Jedi cinematographer Alan Hume and Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky coming on board to blow up the critics’ expectations about the artistic level of product Cannon was able to deliver. “I think it’s a perfect movie,” Eric Roberts offers in his audio commentary – and it is difficult to think of a reason to disagree. Forget Helen Hunt in As Good as It Gets. Jon Voight in Runaway Train will make you want to die a better man!
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