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Stark melodrama about two thrill seeking tough guys who terrorize late-night passengers on a New York City train. The random victims are more concerned with their own problems than helping each other and pray that they won't be next. But it's going to take a lot more than prayer to end this nightmare of fear and violence. Film debut of both Martin Sheen and Tony Musante as the hoodlums. Written by
The plot is simple: Late night subway riders are terrorized by 2 thugs out for kicks. The thugs jam the subway doors so no one can get on or off and the conductor never visits the car. It really makes the viewer feel trapped with the rest of the victims, who are, by the way, pretty standard stereotypes of everyday America. There's the teenagers in love who are always kissing, the black man with a chip on his shoulder about white America and his social worker wife who pleads for him to not be so angry, two servicemen on their way to or back from an assignment and one has his arm in a cast, the harried married couple with a sleeping child, the elderly Jewish couple, the alcoholic, the squabbling couple, a man who may or may not be homosexual, a sleeping bum, and that may or may not be all. Tony Musante as the creepier of the two tough guys is well played. He has venom dripping off of him like a coiled serpent about to strike. His villainy is so real you I sometimes wondered if he was acting or just really mean in person. Martin Sheen, of all people, plays the other tough guy, who seems like he is drawn along by the lead of his pal into the mental and physical games they play on the other subway riders. The two laugh a lot at the misfortunes of their sport and as you watch you wonder if there is a happy ending in sight or is this one of those movies where nobody goes home happy, not even the viewer. The movie is in stark black and white and made better by that fact. In the shadows behind each characters eyes you see a universe of fear and loathing but you keep looking for a positive sign. A very well made movie with my only quibble being that the set up is kinda long. We see each person making it to the fateful subway car and learn their back history. If this film were remade today I can see this entire section being dropped. We could start right in on the subway and use flashbacks to illuminate the histories. But that's just me.
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