Money Train

tn_moneytrainex3-snipes“You know, we are not getting along.”

In MONEY TRAIN that legendary comedy duo of Wesley and Woody play John and Charlie, brothers who are both New York City transit cops who play by their own rules. They get into fist fights with other cops (for example over the fatal shooting of a guy who only snatched a chain), Woody has a gambling addiction, and when they chase a suspect onto the tracks it slows down the train that delivers the apparently millions of dollars of subway fare, getting them on the shit list of Captain Patterson (Robert Blake, Our Gang).

Then they get assigned a new partner. Somebody who’s uptight and doesn’t like their methods, right? No, actually she’s really cool, works well with them and even hangs out with them at the bar after work. The trouble is she’s Jennifer Lopez, so they fight over her.

mp_moneytrainThis is an interesting movie because it doesn’t stick to one formula. It was originally developed by Tony Scott, with a script by Doug Richardson (DIE HARD 2, BAD BOYS, HOSTAGE). When director Joseph Ruben (THE STEPFATHER) took over he apparently had it rewritten by David Loughery, which makes sense ’cause he’d worked with him on DREAMSCAPE and Snipes had worked with him on PASSENGER 57.

I don’t know for sure that that’s the reason why, but it’s kind of like two movies in one. It’s a cop movie combined with a heist movie where they’re both the cops that are trying to catch the bad guy and the heisters trying to separate the money of the title from the train of the title. So there’s three antagonists: a psycho called “The Torch” (Academy Award winner Chris Cooper) who likes to spray gasoline into the toll collection booths to light transit employees on fire, the gangsters who Woody owes money to, and Patterson, who’s such a fucking asshole. He chews them out, threatens them, fires them, spits on them. He knowingly (and against the advice of others) endangers cops and citizens in the name of making sure “his” money always arrives on time.

Blake, who had probly never killed anyone at that point, is so good, so despicable. He’s not a sputtering POLICE ACADEMY style angry superior officer who you laugh at, he’s actually pretty scary. But then he has this moment at the end where the train has crashed and flipped and he’s waiting to see if they’ve caught the thieves… and his lips are quivering. He’s nervous!

It makes him more human.

Context: Wesley and Woody had already co-starred in WILDCATS and WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP. Snipes was already doing action movies (PASSENGER 57, DEMOLITION MAN, DROP ZONE), but this was three years before BLADE. Harrelson had done NATURAL BORN KILLERS the year before, so he was already beginning to stretch from his lovable hayseed persona. It had been a couple years since Blake had even done a TV movie, and 15 years since a theatrical one. His only role since has been that terrifying scene in LOST HIGHWAY. Lopez had done a bunch of TV but this was her first co-starring role in a real movie. I was surprised to realize this was before ANACONDA, because she seems more comfortable here. Two years later she starred in SELENA and the year after that OUT OF SIGHT.

Alot of MONEY TRAIN is about the Wesley and Woody relationship: Woody being envious of older brother getting everything, including J-Lo; Wesley being sick of having to bail out his fuck up little brother. I think part of the magic of Woody and Wesley is this color blind or post-racial type of brotherhood. They’re true brothers, they care about each other, but also fight, and the fact that they’re different races barely comes up except when mentioned by assholes (Patterson and one black friend of Wesley’s).

It’s actually kinda remarkable that they don’t make a bunch of jokes about “wh-WHUH!? Brothers!?” That’s what you expect. And I’m sure they would’ve done that in CONFUCIUS JONES, the movie that was developed for a long time where Wesley would’ve been the half-brother of Jackie Chan. But here you’re just asked to accept that yes, Wesley found Woody in an alley and his (foster?) mother adopted him. What’s more, Woody never tries to prove any hood cred, he doesn’t try to use black slang or accents. They’re just themselves and they grew up together and they accept each other as they are.

But the existence of racism isn’t completely ignored. In the action highlight of the movie Wesley gets to go BLADE on a bunch of guys, and he saves the 360 degree spin-kick-to-the-face-knocking-a guy-through-a-window for the one who called him the n-word.

The biggest racial incident goes by in a weirdly off-handed way. The chain snatcher they’re chasing in the opening is a young black man. When he runs toward the money train the mostly white cops guarding it all unload into him, even as Wesley and Woody are yelling for them not to shoot. They continue to fire even after their bullets have sent him flying backwards and doing a complete somersault. Wesley and Woody are pissed, they know this is an injustice, they yell at the officers and then get in a brawl with them over it.

But then it cuts to them in trouble at the captain’s office. It reduces the whole incident to just our boys being misunderstood and rowdy. The little rascals. We’re definitely supposed to be mad about Patterson making the decision to keep the money train running when he knows officers are on the track, but we must not be supposed to worry about the policy that leads to an unarmed petty thief being executed on the spot, because we never hear about it again.

Later on there’s an old white lady that pickpockets thousands of dollars from Woody. Would’ve been interesting if she got too close to the money train. And by the way, Radio Raheem himself, Bill Nunn, has a small part driving one of the trains. He speaks up about an injustice, but not the death of that kid. I don’t think anybody found out about it.

For transit cops Wesley and Woody sure do get alot of action. Their usual job is going undercover as intoxicated transients to entrap muggers. Yet they’re ending up in chases with their guns out, the Torch running through crowds, pushing everyone over. “Out of the way!” They always do that in movie foot chases. I guess the idea is that knocking over people creates obstacles for the pursuer to trip on and get tangled up in. Seems like a big risk of pissing off people and causing them to grab you, in my opinion.

One silly bit is when Woody fires a warning shot into the air. The sound freaks out a carriage-drawing horse, and Woody sees some oblivious little kids eating ice cream and crossing the street in the horse’s path, so he has to run and tackle them. Like Da Mayor in DO THE RIGHT THING.

When he needs to catch up with Woody, Wesley drives his motorcycle into a crowded subway station and down an escalator, yelling “Out of the way!” Trigger warning for MAN OF STEEL dangerphobes. Of course there’s all kinds of subway train related mayhem – backing against the tunnel wall as it roars by their faces, riding the motorcycle down the tracks, hanging off the side, riding on top, crashing it through a barrier, jumping off it, jumping across the tracks in front of it, the Torch getting run over by it while on fire – but Wesley had to wait until he was half vampire to jump and grab onto one.

Wait a minute – subways in this, subways in BLADE, subways in the Bad video… Wesley’s career owes alot to subways.

I can’t say this is a great action movie, or a very good comedy. Maybe the only part that actually made me laugh is when they’re getting mugged by some hoods (including Lawrence Gilliard Jr. from The Walking Dead and possibly one other TV show, and Flex Alexander, who played Michael Jackson in the TV movie MAN IN THE MIRROR) and they get in such a big argument with each other that it scares them off. But the company of Woody and Wesley is enough to make it worthwhile. Jennifer Lopez is also a worthy partner and love interest even though it’s ridiculous how easy it is for a fellow officer to root for them to get away with their heist.

It should also be noted that it takes place between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. It’s not real heavy Christmas imagery or music, so it’s not weird that I’m watching it in August, but it’s there if you need another backup Christmas set action movie to watch after you’ve done the DIE HARDs and the Shane Blacks and everything.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 at 1:41 am and is filed under Action, Comedy/Laffs, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

29 Responses to “Money Train”

  1. It was a good decision from them to change the movie’s name from WESLEY WOODY to MONEY TRAIN. Too bad that they already printed those teaser posters.

  2. This was one of the first film I bought when I started to collect films in 1998 when I was 15 (the two first was Murder At 1600 and Navy Seals, this was before netshopping was big, and there wasn’t a lot of stores that sold VHS tapes). I bought a lot of bad films that year (I own Firestorm!), of course there was a few good ones, Starship Troopers, Leon, Die Hard With A Vengeance and Strange Days.

    I remember I watched Money Train a lot that year. Not a great film, and kinda boring as an action film, but it has a couple of things going for it, 1) Robert Blake is such a perfect asshole, that he must be an asshole in real life, which there is a lot of evidence that he actually is, 2) Jennifer Lopez first nude scene, not as spectacular as the one in U-Turn, 3) The score by Mark Mancini, this came out the same year has Bad Boys where he had a great score, and while this doesn’t sound much like it, it does have a feel of Speed, and one cues seemed to be used in The Rock, but I think Mancini was part of the same company as Hans Zimmer and Trevor Rabin and does guy, the composer that really dominated the action film in the 90’s, Zimmer seem to be only one that seem to be relevent, even thought Harry Gregson-Williams have got a pretty good career, and his colaberation with Rabin on the score for Enemey of the State is really good.

  3. I love this film. It’s part of the not well respected but still awesome glut of mid-90s action movies I have a huge affection for. I think it works well as an action movie, albeit with a schizophrenic plot and bizarre structure. The various chases and fights are done with panache and final heist is thrilling stuff. It also ends at the perfect moment which far too few films do.

  4. Oh and Ghost, Strange Days is a classic in my opinion.

  5. This one was always kind of neither-fish-nor-fowl for me, too much drama to be funny, not enough action to be exciting. Maybe I should revisit it.

    Though as a New Yorker, I’d be pretty pissed if these two public servants caused the subway fare to get raised again by stealing millions of dollars from the already stretched-thin MTA. It’s not all about you, Wesley Woody.

  6. Vern, this is great. Could your next review please be RUNNING SCARED (1986) with Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal?

  7. I saw this one when I was a kid, and I remember being someone confused by its disjointed structure. I still enjoyed Snipes’s and Woody’s rapport, though. I would love to see these two join forces again. I’d be cool with adding Woody to the Expendables like Vern suggested, but I would also love to see them in their own action film. Nineties nostalgia seems like it’s revving up these days, so they should strike while the iron is hot.

  8. The Original Paul

    August 20th, 2014 at 11:54 am

    I agree with RBatty here. This one always frustrated me with its lack of structure, which in turn felt like a lack of substance – it feels like a movie that never “commits”. What bothers me more than anything else, though, is that we’re supposed to accept Woody and Wesley as likeable protagonists because:

    1) Everybody else in the film is a little worse than they are, and
    2) They have some good banter with each other.

    And to be honest I could never quite get behind these two. I thought they were a couple of dicks. Not to the point where it turned me completely off the film, but definitely to the point where I wish they’d maybe gone the “In a World” route of having the initially unlikeable protagonist do something that’s both so obviously altruistic and so “natural” for that character that it completely turns me around and makes me root for them. Never happened in “Money Train”, to what I think is the film’s great detriment. I could never quite get invested in them.

    I sound like I hate this film, and yet I absolutely don’t… I think it was a few steps short of being great. Unfortunately they’re pretty big steps. The structural issues and lack of really likeable characters are two huge negatives for me. There are a lot of positives though – Wesley and Woody are good enough in this one that they overcome a lot of what I don’t like about their characters through sheer force of charisma. (The best comparison I can come up with is Chris Evans as that character. And that’s not a place I want to go to again. Anyways…) The boss is such a gigantic douchebag that there’s a lot of satisfaction in seeing him be as utterly gulled as he is at the end of the movie. If there’s not exactly someone I want to roof for in the movie, there’s at least someone I can absolutely root against. I also remember the final act being really well filmed.

    All of those pluses and minuses add up to a film that was definitely worth watching but one I can’t honestly say I like a great deal. I’ve never been a Snipes fan, but it’s great to see him back in a role where he obviously gave a shit about what he was doing. And Harrelson has never been less than watchable for me in any role I’ve seen him in, including this one. I think fans of those two actors would definitely appreciate this film the most.

    Final note: I’d completely forgotten that the girl was J-Lo. Guess that shows how much of an impression she made on me in this one.

  9. This film is up there with movies like HOOK and ASSASSINS as one of those films that I know isn’t particularly great, yet I’ve still watched it quite a few times because it somehow amuses and entertains me. Can’t really say why. Could be the Woody Harrelson element (Simple rule: If Woody or Nick Nolte is in a movie, I watch it).

    Hey, you know which movie I watched the other day for the first time since I saw it at cinemas and it was way better than I remembered? PROOF OF LIFE. Holy shit, did that movie really work for me on a second viewing. Love when that happens.

  10. I think I might appreciate this one in a retro way now, more so than I did when it first came out. My attention span in the late 90’s was disrupted by better movies like PULP FICTION and JACKIE BROWN, flat-out awesome ones like FACE/OFF, interesting Tarantino rip-offs like TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES and ALBINO ALLIGATOR. A studio movie like MONEY TRAIN comes along, with nothing particularly original or fresh going on, and I either fall asleep midway through, or watch FACE/OFF again. Or HEAT. Or MOHICANS. Or BRAVEHEART.

    Or FACE/OFF. Yeah. FACE/OFF.

    I will say I was starting to really like Woody around this time. KINGPIN remains a favourite.

  11. I like seeing Woody in Tarantino-type material. Thought he was great in SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS.

    Speaking of which, you should really consider watching CALVARY and THE GUARD, Vern. Who knew the guy who directed IN BRUGES had an equally talented brother. And I love how he keeps giving Brendan Gleeson starring roles.

  12. The Robert Blake performance might be a good enough reason to watch it again. Like Vern mentioned, his main scene in LOST HIGHWAY was singularly terrifying.

  13. I have almost no memory of this movie. I saw Vern was reviewing it and thought, “Oh, hey, MONEY TRAIN. Wait, what happened in that movie? Huh, maybe I never saw it.” Then reading his review things started sounding vaguely familiar, which leads me to believe I did watch it and found it neither terrible or good enough to leave a lasting memory. I want to say that makes me think I could watch it again, like it was a whole new movie, and possibly find enjoyment, but I have a feeling it would once again slip through the cracks of my memory.

  14. I liked this one alot. Sure, the structure is weird w/ the subplots of the mobsters and The Torch (I think there were some copycat Torch crimes after this movie, unfortunately),… but I kinda liked the “slice of life” aspect of it – there should be more movies about cops where they have a ton of shit going on instead of just one case. Plus Snipes’ fight sequence(s) are great, and I love how the movie pulls a Road Warrior, making the final act an extended runaway chase sequence. It’s awesome. Bonus for Robert Blake’s performance and Jennifer Lopez nudity.

    I really wish Wesley and Woody would make one more buddy movie. Preferably with Sofia Vergara as the Hispanic leading lady this time.

  15. So, it looks as though Snipes may get another shot at BLADE:


  16. Hey, remember how there was a copycat subway station gasoline-through-the-money-slot thing in New York after this movie? Did that happen or am I making this up? Or did the MOVIE rip it straight from the headlines? To Google, and step on it!

    Okay, I was right.


    I vaguely remembered Money Train being controversial for some reason. That was it. I guess IT wasn’t really controversial, but then it renewed the whole “do movies make us violent” claptrap we always bring about a few times each decade. Anyway, I love Money Train. Woody and Wesley is one of the all-time great cinema pairings. I wonder if Woody at least called him while he was in prison. I bet so.

  17. Squirting gasoline on someone and then setting them on fire is one of the most horrific things I could ever imagine a person doing to another person. I’m betting that someone who sees that in a movie and thinks, “What a great idea!” is someone who could come up with a horrific idea all on their own.

  18. The Original... Paul

    August 30th, 2014 at 4:38 pm

    Darryll – I’d love to be optimistic about that news, but… No. Just no. As far as I’m concerned, “Blade” was damn near a masterpiece; “Blade 2” was decent, but managed to remove everything I thought was unique about the first one and substitute instead a lot of geek-service stuff that didn’t really fit the mythos; and “Blade 3” was a nearly unwatchable disaster that convinced me that Wesley had utterly given up on the character, and quite possibly on acting itself (he sure as hell didn’t do any of that in the movie). What I’m saying is that so far the “Blade” movies have gotten progressively worse.

    Could “Blade 4” actually be worse than its predecessor? That would be quite a feat of bad moviemaking. And the way I see it, the one pretty sure way to guarantee it WILL be worse would be to cast, as the lead, the guy who showed just how much contempt he had for both the series and its fans in “Blade 3”. So unless prison has given Snipes one hell of an attitude adjustment, or at least gotten rid of that massive entitlement chip he has on his shoulder, the absolute last thing I want to see is for him to fuck up another “Blade” movie.

    By the way, I’ve watched the first couple of episodes of the “Blade” TV show. I’ve got to look up Vern’s reviews of it but I don’t want to be spoiled before I’ve seen the whole thing. The first episode didn’t impress me too much, but near the start of the second one, there’s a moment that’s so flat-out ballsy and unexpected – basically something happens to a main character that I would never in a million years have guessed would happen – that it was a complete “Holy shit!” moment for me. At that point the series kinda “got” me. I hope it continues to surprise.

  19. It’s easy to shit on BLADE 3 for not being as good as the first two but I still get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Snipes may have seemed distracted in his performance but I liked the supporting characters enough to carry it through. Goyer’s directing was pretty good considering his limited experience in the chair.

    And Paul, suggesting another actor play BLADE this time? You’re kidding, right? This isn’t James Bond we are talking about.

  20. The Original Paul

    August 31st, 2014 at 4:02 am

    Darren – I don’t have the same respect for Snipes as some of the people on this forum do. I think he’s an obnoxious human being, he’s proved it time and time again, and that’s why I have no problems with what I’m saying about him here. As an actor… I’ve said many times that I haven’t seen what you guys consider his “best” work, except for “King of New York”. Now admittedly it’s a long time since I’ve seen that – years in fact – but the only performance that really stuck in my mind from that one was Christopher Walken’s. I couldn’t tell you what character Snipes even played in it. Of the stuff I have seen, the only one he’s really impressed me in is the original “Blade”, although I will also say that he did a good job of mostly keeping the essence of the character intact in “Blade 2”. I think he can show a great deal of charisma when he can be bothered – in films like “Money Train” and “White Men Can’t Jump” for example – but given who we’re talking about here, that’s a pretty huge “if”.

    And “Blade 3″‘s problems in filming were legendary, and a whole lot of people who worked on the film blamed Snipes. I don’t agree with you about Blade 3 obviously – the only supporting cast member I actually liked was the blind girl who got Queen Latifah’d at the start of the third act – I thought the kids were obnoxious and Kristofferson looked as though he couldn’t even be bothered. But my impression is that it was Snipes himself who ruined the film beyond redemption. He didn’t show up. And because he didn’t show up, and because I think he’s a complete arsehole, I don’t see any reason whatsoever to give him the benefit of the doubt here. I think he’ll take the money and phone in his performance. And Snipes does not have enough personality or charisma to pull off a “phoned in” performance and still make me give a shit.

    So yeah… my preference is for another actor to play the daywalker, somebody who can be trusted to try and do something interesting with the role. I don’t care if it turns out to be a departure from the first three films either. If the actor brings something worthwhile, and the film is better because of it, I’ll cheer him on. I just don’t want to see Snipes, the guy who pissed away all of what little goodwill I had for him in “Blade 3”, get another shot at ruining a “Blade” film.

  21. Still Paul, it’s like suggesting a new actor play John Rambo in RAMBO V. It’s possible, but mostly inconceivable.

  22. That rumor makes no sense. Marvel has the Blade film rights back, and if they ever do a movie or TV show with him again, they’ll cast a new guy so they can do their own thing.

  23. I wouldn’t say it “makes no sense”, just that it’s very unlikely. So far the only case of an MCU movie with a character, that previously appeared in a movie from a different studio, was THE INCREDIBLE HULK, but unlike ANG LEE’S THE HULK, the Blade movies are for 2/3 very popular with the audience and starred an actor who everybody agreed on that he was perfect for this role.

    But of course nobody will be surprised if the pendulum swings the other way and we get an all new and 20 years younger Daywalker. The only thing that I wonder, is if Marvel will be willing to make a BLADE movie or TV show after all. They don’t seem to be chasing the R-rating audience at the moment and I don’t think they want to take the risk of alienating the built-in BLADE audience with a PG-13. (Especially not now after EXPENDABL3S bombed.) But who knows, if Blade won’t appear after the end credits GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY 2: RETURN OF THE A-HOLES.

  24. Crushinator Jones

    March 8th, 2016 at 11:01 am

    So Vern, when are you getting that Patreon going?

  25. Thanks for asking. I’ve been planning some extra benefits that will take some work to get going, but maybe I should just set it up and add those later.

  26. Crushinator Jones

    March 8th, 2016 at 1:52 pm

    Yes, you should! Take the plunge my man.

    Also, hey, something has been eating at me. Earlier I *might* have accused you of thinking you were too good for marketing. When you told me “actually Crushinator I am just not very good at it” it really hit me hard. I shouldn’t have done that, it’s been eating at me a little, so let me officially and humbly apologize to you for questioning your motives. Keep on keeping on, and I’m looking forward to throwing 5 in the kitty when you get the Patreon up and running.

  27. No need to apologize at all! I didn’t take offense in any way. It is true that I’m hesitant about marketing things, and I took it as encouragement on your part. I appreciate it.

  28. Vern,

    I’ve been keeping an eye on the Patreon and I think you might need to start putting your “slasher search” or other retrospective/special series articles into “backer only” status.

    I know you don’t want to do this and want to keep it 100% optional but the really successful Patreons that I am seeing withhold some content for backers. Not all of it, not even the majority of it, but some. And the content that they withhold is stuff for the hardcore fan.

    By reviewing newer movies but keeping the Vern Deep Dives in backer-only status I think you can get your monthly up and free you up to write more so that you don’t need to pull so many late nights.

    Just an idea.

  29. That was kind of the plan to do something like that, but I was hoping to avoid it. I think you may be right. And I appreciate the advice. I’ll have to think about it more.

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