U2's drummer Larry Mullen makes his screen debut in this remake of Patrice Leconte's 2002 French thriller l'Homme Du Train. The idea is solid enough but up against a heavyweight like Sutherland Mullen's performance, it comes off as amateurish.
With a goatee, an earring, a leather jacket and a perma-frown to match the attire, Mullen plays the titular character who steps off a train into a sleepy Midwest town. He's got a headache, which might excuse the scowl, and makes for the chemist where the kindly retired professor (Sutherland) offers him some of his prescription tablets and a glass of water back at his house. He also gives him a room to stay. While peaceful in Sutherland's country home, Mullen's meetings with a nefarious gang (Greene among them, who only speaks once at a day at 10.30am) suggests that something violent is going to shatter the quiet...
There are things to like about Man On The Train. These two men, separated by a generation and class, are drawn to each other because there is a great big gaping hole in their lives. For Sutherland it's loneliness - retired and bored in that big house - and for Mullen it's... well, we're left to guess what's missing from Mullen's life as we know nothing about him. This is the movie's major problem: We know too little about him to be interested in his mission or his connection to the older Sutherland. We don't know what's at stake for him - is this his last job? - and there's no oomph to the proceedings when things need to be ratcheted up a notch or two later on.
In contrast to Mullen, Sutherland's professor can't offer enough information about himself. Ad nauseam. The again it is Donald Sutherland we're talking about and he's got one of those cinematic voices that makes it OK. He's got presence too, and outshines his co-star in every scene they're in together. Mullen, who co-produced the film and is responsible for the intrusive John Carpenter synthesiser-esque score, just isn't in the same league and, in his defence, he seems to know it (he's admitted to being convinced to play the lead and then feeling silly when Sutherland signed on).