This train enters a tunnel and never comes out. Painfully reminiscent of the worst international co-productions of days gone by, slipshod German venture is too deadeningly awful to be enjoyably bad. Obviously patched-together effort won’t see the light of many screens in any country, and wouldn’t even cut it as a video title in the U.S.
Plot has so many holes, unaccountable events, deeds with no repercussions and unknowable character motivations that it would be useless to belabor them. First hour recounts a journey by the celebrated Orient Express that’s so calamitous that the guests would be well within their rights to demand a refund, but this doesn’t seem to occur to them, so wrapped up are they in their various intrigues.
Supercilious journalist Hugh Grant is on his way to deliver a disc containing his explosive book on the European neo-Nazi movement. On board he falls for actress Tahnee Welch, who’s traveling with her daughter and mother-in-law. Remainder of the flamboyant passengers are journeying to the Venice carnival, and all are surveyed with a mean-spirited eye by mysterious stranger Malcolm McDowell, who just may be in charge of the gang of skinheads that takes over the train.
Amazingly, the passengers take little notice of the violent punks even after they throw the conductor overboard, and the train conveniently never stops, which would give people a chance to get off or authorities to get on.
But this is actually the good part of the movie. More than a half-hour is devoted to hopelessly unconnected footage — covering a year’s time — of Grant suffering an amnesia-inducing motorcycle accident, lots of Dobermans running around, Venetians in masks, a mild sex scene, a Nazi book burning and plenty of glaring by McDowell. Suffice it to say that none of it makes any sense.
With its ghastly dubbing, papered over musical score and pervasive feeling of irreality, pic has the look of something that’s spent a long time in post-production trying in vain to become presentable. Technical quality alone makes it subpar for Yank audiences.
Cast members should be glad this one will go mostly unseen. Welch, making her first appearance since the “Cocoon” features, is given a British accent and does a couple of brief nude scenes. A graceful and amusing actor under reasonable circumstances, Grant should stop playing such wimps if he wants to forge a decent career.