It’s time to take a look at an old train film. Just about the whole film takes place on the train with the detective matching wits against the mobsters. It’s a very short film though, only being a little over an hour so it certainly never drags and the pacing stays rather quick the whole time. It’s a fun little detective film. It may not have the same amount of depth as some other retro thrillers, but this is a good film to add to your collection.
Walter Brown is a good detective/police agent who has been tasked with the job of safely getting the wife of a gangster to a jury so she can release a list of names of other wanted associates. The gangsters don’t want this to happen so they’ve sent some men to eliminate her. The advantage that Walter has is that the villains do not know how the wife looks. Unfortunately, Walter’s partner was an amateur at the protecting business and when escorting the lady out of her apartment, he walked down the dark stairs with his eyes closed and enjoying his smoke. He did not notice anything until an innocent bystander happened to show up and the partner quickly died. With him out of the way, Walter must now keep the wife safe on his own. Can he handle this? At least 2 gangsters are already on board the train and there may be more of them afoot.
The situation grows more complicated as the gangsters start to suspect that another lady on board the train is actually the wife thanks to Walter stopping to talk to this lady quite a few times. Can Walter complete his mission and also ensure that no innocents are harmed either? Looks like it is time for a fight! As Walter says at the beginning of the movie, this mission wasn’t very well thought out on the cops side. Surely there is a more secure way of protecting this witness than putting her on board a crowded train with other gangsters right? Maybe a drive with a police escort or something like that. It would take longer, but it would also be safer.
As this is an old film with a good writing staff, the script is very good. The characters engage in quite a few mind games and throw out subtle insults whenever necessary. It doesn’t mean that all of the characters are likable though as that aspect is really 50/50, but the film is engaging all the way from start to finish. This is a solid thriller even if there are not a lot of twists and ruffles. It’s simple, but direct.
As hinted at earlier, I thought that Walter’s partner was pretty terrible at his job and supremely overconfident. The way that he went down was pretty embarrassing. Walter would be a good main character, but he ends up panicking and yelling a lot throughout the film. A detective’s always got to keep his cool under duress while this guy seems to take everything personally. Everything tends to work out all right for him, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he is great at his job. On the contrary, he leaves his post many times and actually gets his charge killed at one point. Maybe if he spent less time tailing everyone around the train and stopping to chat with the other passengers, he would have had better luck here. Tying up the convict that he did defeat would have surely been a good move as well.
The witness that Walter is protecting loves to talk so get ready for her to keep on insulting everyone. There is a plot twist about her that makes the whole situation a lot worse as well. She refused to play along with Walter’s plan to stay silent so she would turn the music on rather loudly which attracts a lot of attention since officially she can’t let anyone know that she’s on the train. There’s also the fact that she casually opens the door rather easily after hearing a muffled response. Given the plot twist, she should have had her gun at the ready and definitely should have not opened the door. She’s as bad as Walter in that respect.
The villains are fairly generic. They’re around and know how to fight, but in the end they’re simply foot soldiers working for some unseen gangsters. The one who offered Walter a deal surprisingly didn’t get much of a role in the end. One character who actually turned out to be pretty enjoyable was the “Fat Man” I forgot if he got a name by the end, but that’s the term that he kept on using so we may as well roll with it. He’s really invaluable to have on a Train and especially a train with such narrow hallways as this one. Unfortunately, he’s another all talk and no action character so don’t count on him in a fight, but he’s still fun to have and that’s what counts I suppose right?
We also have Ann, who shows up on the train along with her son and his nurse. They’re fine characters I suppose, but they’re really just here to flesh out the cast more than anything else. The secret that Walter tells the kid never even comes into play anyway. They provide a lot of distractions and issues for Walter from his job since the kid seems to think that he’s a robber and Ann keeps reminding Walter to watch out for his nerves. Walter can’t let himself get too attached though because then the person he is guarding could be in danger. Unfortunately, he does forget his priorities a lot although he is faced with a lot of tricky situations. He really needed some backup for this case and it is a little surprising that he wasn’t given any. At least someone right before the train departed right? I can say with confidence that having one more person would have been extremely helpful.
Back to how the case was handled though, the police could have come up with a better plan. Send in two more guys and just make it official that they’re transporting someone. Good luck trying to get past these guys when it’s public knowledge. Also, they should have had security cars following the train once it was confirmed that crooks were following the main guy. The problem is that there was no communication so he was never able to talk to any of the cops. I’d call that a pretty big oversight in whatever the plan was.
Overall, The Narrow Margin was a solid thriller, I definitely recommend checking it out. The plan may have not been the best, but Walter worked with what he got and showed the Police Force that he doesn’t take bribes. He also wins the big fist fight of the film so he proved that when the chips were down he did not need a gun. I have to question the intelligence of the whole cast though in light of the fact that just about everyone left their doors unlocked for the majority of the film. To break the locks, you need to use a gun and that calls attention so the main characters should have definitely kept the rooms locked. Sure, once Walter let the guy in as part of his plan, but how about catching the guy in the act or simply keeping him out. The villains would try breaking in at some point, but Walter would have the edge with his gun at the ready. I definitely would have handled things differently than Walter, but I suppose that’s part of the fun of these thrillers; thinking of the potential ways this could have ended differently.