“Runaway Train” (1985) directed by Andrey Konchalovskiy, starring Jon Voight, Eric Roberts & Rebecca DeMornay / Z-View

Runaway Train (1985)

Director: Andrey Konchalovskiy

Screenplay: Djordje Milicevic, Paul Zindel, Edward Bunker based on a story by Akira Kurosawa, Hideo Oguni (uncredited),Ryūzō Kikushima

Stars: Jon Voight, Eric Roberts, Rebecca De Mornay, Kyle T. Heffner, John P. Ryan, T.K. Carter, Kenneth McMillan, Edward Bunker, Reid Cruickshanks, John Bloom, Danny Trejo, Tom ‘Tiny’ Lister, Dennis Franz and Hank Worden.

Tagline: Once it starts, nothing can stop it!

The Plot…

Stonehaven Maximum Security Prison is located in the remote Alaskan wilderness.  “Manny” Manheim (Voight) is a hardened convict. For the last three years Manny has lived in solitary confinement at the order of  Warden Ranken (Ryan).  Rankin hates Manny because he is a hero to the other inmates, is an escape risk (two attempts so far) and he cannot be broken.  When a court order forces Rankin to release Manny from solitary, Rankin’s hatred for Manny grows.

Soon Manny has a plan for escape.  Manny and a young convict named Buck (Roberts) make it out.  In a rail yard, they see a train of four cars slowly pulling away.  Once on board, Manny and Buck think they’re home free.  When the engineer has a heart attack, the train continues to pick up speed, burning off the brakes in the process.  Now Manny, Buck and one other person yet to be discovered are on a runaway train.  There’s no way to stop it,  Jumping from the train would be suicide.

Let the action begin!

Thoughts (beware of spoilers)

Runaway Train was nominated for three Academy Awards:

  • Best Actor in a Leading Role: Jon Voight
  • Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Eric Roberts
  • Best Film Editing: Henry Richardson

Akira Kurosawa originally planned to make Runaway Train in the 1960s!  His intended stars were Lee Marvin and Henry Fonda.  The script was dusted off in 1982 and Cannon Films backed the revised movie.

Runaway Train features the film debuts of Danny Trejo and Tim “Tiny” Lester.  Dennis Franz also appears uncredited as a cop.

Danny Trejo got the job thanks to Eddie Bunker.  Bunker recognized Trejo who was on set visiting a production assistant.  Both Trejo and Bunker (who co-wrote and appears in the film) served time together at San Quentin. Bunker got Trejo a job as an extra and boxing coach to Eric Roberts.  Trejo said that the $320 a day salary was more than he ever made from any of his robberies.

Runaway Train features my favorite performances by Jon Voight, Eric Roberts and Rebecca De Mornay.  John P. Ryan is great as the sadistic warden.  Kudos also to Andrey Konchalovskiy for his amazing job in helming a dramatic action-thriller with heart.

Runaway Train (1985) rates 5 of 5 stars.