Opposites have always attracted in Hollywood and when teaming Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson in White Men Can't Jump proved box office gold, it wasn't surprising to anyone old enough to get it when the pair popped up shortly after in another buddy movie, this time with a more action-centric focus. That movie was, and still is, Money Train, a film where Harrelson plays an MTA cop named Charlie and Snipes an MTA cop named John who are assigned to the Wall Street station where they're to stop pickpockets from preying on na´ve tourists and banker types. Not only are these two partners at work, but they're also foster brothers. At any rate, in their personal lives John is boring and straight laced while Charlie is a risk taker and a gambler and soon finds himself in deep with a local gangster who expects him to pay up and fast.
So Charlie, not wanting to sleep with the fishes, decides the only way he can come up with this kind of cash fast enough to save his own skin is to rob the 'money train' that goes through the New York City subway tunnels once a night and which carries all of the cash from the various stations. It's highly protected but Charlie knows enough about how all of this works that he just might be able to pull it off. His brother John, however, isn't going to let his brother do something like this and when he figures out what Charlie is up to, he heads into the tunnels to stop him before it's too late. Complicating matters is the presence of one Grace Santiago (Jennifer Lopez), the requisite hot chick who works with the two brothers and who is, of course, the source of some friction between the two as she has no qualms whatsoever about toying with their emotions and playing up her sex appeal for kicks. And complicating things even more is a pyromaniac named 'The Torch' (Chris Cooper) who is running around setting stuff on fire.
Money Train is a mixed bag indeed. For every pro, there's a con, and for every twist, there's a giant slab of predictability. Let's start with the good, shall we? Snipes and Harrelson are a lot of fun together here, just as they were in their first outing together, and Jennifer Lopez is hot, plenty fun to look at. The cast is solid, Chris Cooper makes for a fine psycho and Robert Blake of all people is kind of cool as the brothers' ever so serious boss. Also landing squarely in the 'good' camp is the heist itself, which is well shot, pretty exciting, and genuinely interesting.
Now for the bad - first off is the pacing. The movie starts off reasonably strong but soon heads into a ridiculously long forty minute stretch in the middle of the film where nothing really happens. Sure, different characters talk about the different plot points going around in circles in the film but no one actually does anything to it and by the time you get to the actual money train heist, you'll have probably forgotten it was going to happen in the first place. On top of that, characters sort of drift in and out for no reason. The Torch goes down like a chump before his part of the story can really add much than a very fleeting sense of danger to a couple of scenes, while Grace adds nothing more than eye candy to the picture, her character just sort of vanishing in the last third of the movie. And yeah, the movie is predictable to a fault.
With those sizeable complaints levied at the picture, let it suffice to say that the movie is not a complete waste of time and despite the flaws, you can still have fun with it so long as you know what you're in for. Yes, the last twenty minutes or so definitely qualify as action movie material and a few set pieces scattered throughout the picture help reinforce that but this isn't the two hundred mile an hour thrill ride you might expect it to be - it's talky, it's obviously padded, and it's saved almost solely by the charisma and screen presence that Snipes and Harrelson share together.
Money Train looks pretty good on Blu-ray in this AVC encoded 2.35.1 widescreen 1080p high definition transfer. There is some softness here and there but it looks like some of this stems from the way that the movie was shot. The elements used for the transfer appear to have been in very good shape, however, as there are no problems with excessive print damage, just the odd speck here and there. As far as the authoring goes, colors look warm and bright when and where they should and appropriately dark in other spots, as the movie calls for it. Black levels are strong though never reference quality, and there are no problems with heavy compression artifacts or excessive noise reduction. This is a pretty film like presentation and while it doesn't appear to have under gone any seriously extensive restoration, thankfully it doesn't seem to have needed it. A nice job from Image in the visuals department.
The only audio option on the disc is an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix with removable subtitles provided in English SDH and Spanish. As you could probably guess, the action scenes benefit from the lossless track the most, and the scenes where the train is running full speed ahead sound appropriately bombastic. There are scenes where the dialogue gets a bit buried in the mix but thankfully these are few and far between and generally things sound clean and clear throughout playback. Bass response gets a little mucky at times but there are no problems to report with any hiss or distortion. This won't set your world on fire but for an older catalogue title, Money Train sounds pretty good.
Extras? Outside of menus and chapter stops all we get is a theatrical trailer for the feature. At least it's in high definition.
If you're a Snipes fan or a Harrelson fan, you've probably already decided to get this one, if not, rent it first. Money Train isn't bad but it does suffer from some pacing and predictability issues that hurt it in the long run. Harrelson and Snipes, with some help from a super sexy Ms. Lopez, have enough spirit to carry the picture, but it's the performances here that save things rather than the story or the action. Image's Blu-ray looks and sounds pretty good but is very light in the extra features department - a solid rental for sure.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.