There’s an old saying in Hollywood that less is more; but enough about Hollywood masterpieces, we’re simply talking about a train that carries money – “Money Train.”
The money train, is the revenue collection locomotive operating in the busy New York subway transit system. On these same subway platforms, two cops, John (Wesley Snipes) and Charlie (Woody Harrelson), are brothers, foster brothers, to be specific. With heavy cover from fellow officers, they often pose as drunks in an effort to bait muggers and other common street scum.
But trouble arises when they run afoul of transit system chief and local hard a** Donald Patterson (Robert Blake, who gets some of the best lines and hams it up in a thankless villain role), who considers it his life’s mission to care for his precious revenue train and make hell for John and Charlie. Peep the following dialogue when Patterson discovers John and Charlie are brothers: “You, sir, are a Negro. And you, sir, are white. Is somebody trying to jack me off?” The foster brothers simply scoff, twice does Charlie.
Speaking of baby foster brother Charlie, he’s on a string of bad luck, in debt up to his eyeballs to a vicious tough who would proudly drop the poor chap off the 51st floor of a New York high-rise if given the green light from John, who’s sick and tired of bailing Charlie out of trouble. Charlie, meanwhile, has already begun plans to knock off the money train, partly to get himself out of debt and also to f**k with Patterson.
This is your average buddy-cop flick with an established and effortless portrait of comradeship between veterans Snipes and Harrelson, who are teaming up again following the success of 1992’s “White Men Can’t Jump.” It seems Hollywood was fishing for the latest in cop careers, and somehow found success in making these guys working for the New York transit authority. But here, both stars are given the opportunity to pick at each other (much like family) and perhaps their effortless screen relationship may be the only thing keeping the film afloat. But I still have to hand it to Blake, though, since he gets some of the funniest one-liners in the whole film as the despicable (and possible sociopath) transit chief.
Director Joseph Ruben guides the two through Doug Richardson’s hammy, cliché-ridden script, as he sketches the two’s downward spiral into an inevitable confrontation between the brothers. Further tension comes in the form of recent department transfer Grace Santiago, a Latina powerhouse played by Jennifer Lopez, who Charlie falls for but she instead has stronger affections for John; we know this isn’t going to end well between John and Charlie. Fleshed-out villains, aside from Patterson, aren’t all that apparent either, except for maybe Chris Cooper as subway pyromaniac Torch.
The film concludes with a big chase through the New York subway (which I guess was inescapable too, since this is billed as an action movie) but it’s just best to let it go; get on, or get out of the way – that’s “Money Train’s” motto.
Next stop, “White Men Can’t Jump off of Money Trains, part III” – coming soon.