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4.3 out of 5 stars
Narrow Margin [DVD]
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
This is a terrific thriller with excellent performances by Gene hackamn, Anne Archer, J.T. Walsh, James Sikking, M.Emmett Walsh, and Susan Hogan. There are also some terrific action scenes. This film is guaranteed to keep the viewer on the edge of one's seat.
The plot is simple. A woman, Carol Hunnicutt (Anne Archer), goes on a blind date with an attorney (J.T. Walsh) with whom a well meaning friend has set her up. He gets a business call that he needs to return as soon as possible. She accompanies him to his apartment. She excuses herself and goes to use the bathroom. In the interim, he is visited by one of his clients, Leo Watts, and another man. Watts confronts the attorney with the fact that he knows that the attorney has gotten himself into a financial hole and has, consequently, stolen a lot of money from him. The attorney, knowing watts to be a ruthless mobster, begins to cry. Carol, overhearing the commotion, cautiously opens the door, only to see the other man with Watts execute her blind date.
Terror stricken, she sits mute for sometime and then disappears to a remote Canadian location, where she is ultimately tracked down by Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Robert Caulfield (Gene Hackman) and a Los Angeles Police Department Detective, who has accompanied him. They are working on the case involving the murder of the attorney, and they believe that she may have some relevant information, as her fingerprints were discovered at the crime scene and traced back to her via an old anti-war protest arrest.
Unfortunately, Watts' men also find her, almost simultaneously, and the games begin in earnest, with the detective killed in the process. Robert and Carol make a run for it and board a train headed towards Vancouver. Right behind them are the hit men, who also board the same train, hot on their heels. A life or death cat and mouse game commences. What happens on that train will keep the viewer riveted to the screen. This is, without a doubt, a well executed thriller.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on 18 April 2005
Narrow Margin is one of those small time films which gives so much more than it's more well publicised and better known stable mates, but yet because of silly issues doesn't quite fulfil its true potential.
The story idea is thrilling just in itself. Witness to a mob murder, Carol Honnicut played by Anne Archer is forced to flee for her life before she can possibly testify. She is tracked down by grizzled deputy D.A. Robert Caufield (Gene Hackman), but at the same time because of a mystery mole in the D.A.'s office the mob and various henchmen are also on the trail of Ms Honnicut. Forced to take refuge on a passing train travelling through the Canadian Rockies, the question is will the pursuing bad guys find Caufield and Honnicut before these two make it to safety.
Hackman is great in this sort of film. He manages to find the right balance between being a all-action hero and a sensitive father figure and yet still use all the tricks in the book to increase the tension levels at every opportunity. The rest of the cast support ably well although none of them, including Archer, really have enough of the action to make a great impression. Mentions to James Sikking as the lead henchman for a pretty good sinister performance though.
** Possible Spoilers**
Where the film let's itself down though is the numerous occasions where the "right" course of action is blindingly obvious yet the main leads go bumbling down the wrong path, leading themselves into more danger. Caufield, creeping around the buffet car, trying not to let anyone notice him, meets a pretty woman and within seconds has told her his name! Using the toy gun as a decoy he disarms one of the baddies, "Ha Ha! Toy Gun!" he gleefully crows until the baddie gives him a good whack! Honnicut puts on a pregnant act in order to get the last private carriage on the train, and then runs out of the ticket office in full view of everyone, including the kindly elderly couple who have given up their tickets with no further pretence at the act! There are plenty more occasions for more of this type of poor screenplay and with a bit of attention to detail this could have been a real gem of a film.
I won't be too hard on the film though. It's still great fun and still gets you gasping at all the right points and hey guess what? It's a train film and the goodie and the baddie end up rolling around on the roof! Now there's a surprise!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2001
Not a very well known film admittedly, but this is such an entertaining one. Gene Hackman is brilliant in it. From the start the film captures you and you want to know how it will end. I remember renting this film out ages ago and have wanted to buy a copy ever since, now I have. I highly recommend this film, it will keep you on the edge of your seat I promise you!!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 23 March 2008
Not a bad crime drama for its time, made in 1990 and starring Gene Hackman who you know is always going to give 110% and the never ageing Anne Archer,who in her late 30's? goes on a blind date and he gets shot for crossing a mob boss.As she witnesses it and mistakenly tells someone she becomes a target.Enter Hackman who works as a Dep.D.A. and offers her a deal to help bring the mob boss to justice.More shooting and bodies later, a train-journey,lies and more lies,double-crossing,trust-no-one.A well made crime drama.Give it a view.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Peter Hyams' remake of Richard Fleisher's 1952 The Narrow Margin focuses more on atmosphere and scenery than it does film noir. It does make for a cool, if a bit too short, movie.

Gene Hackman is the loudmouth Deputy DA desperate to get a big daddy mob boss behind bars. And when a shy book editor witnesses a mob assassination he treks out to Middleofnowhere, Canada to drag her into court to testify. Problem's arise when the bad guys show up in the wilderness and blow the crap out of her cabin.

A brilliant, rustic car/chopper chase down the sheer slopes of a mountain forest follows. It's an exciting scene with some great shots and sharp editing. Once they reach the bottom of the mountain they find a train station and board the train for a private cabin. The bad guys follow, only they still don't know what their witness looks like.

Many scenes of hiding and seeking make up the rest of the movie. It doesn't sound like much but Peter Hyams' anamorphic Panavision photography is used to the max to promote a sense of claustrophobia and even the quieter scenes are dominated by the sound of the train charging through the dark Canadian wilderness. One particular scene at Monashee Station really does take advantage of the 'middle of nowhere' feeling.

Bruce Broughton's score is kind of okay, but nothing as loud and exciting as the score he originally created. Peter Hyams disagreed (as he often does with his composers) and chopped up Broughton's work in post-production. Thus, the music in the movie is more of an underscore with much of the more action-based cues missing. You ought to hunt down the Narrow Margin (Original Score) if you want to hear what Broughton actually composed for the film.

I wish it did last longer and with more scenes on the train (coz trains are cool) but, for what it is, Narrow Margin is a slightly wrought thriller with Gene Hackman on top form as always and having fun playing the older guy in the suit who can still get into fights and car chases as if it were his everyday job.

The DVD is in okay-looking 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen with a fair amount of extras.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1990's Narrow Margin made a poor showing at the box-office, which is a pity because this is a thriller that really thrills. All too quickly dismissed by many critics for committing the cardinal sin of being a remake (in this case of Richard Fleischer's classic 1952 B-movie), it's a superbly paced example of pure commercial film-making at its most satisfying.

Intelligently scripted by director Peter Hyams (Capricorn One, Outland) with an admirable use of Scope that emphasises the claustrophobic nature of the game of cat-and-mouse, there are at least two genuinely breath-taking moments even before the inevitable train-top finale. Yet the film is always careful to maintain a semblance of credibility. As a result, it derives as much of its suspense from our involvement with the characters as from its bravura action sequences.

True, these are stereotypes - idealistic DA, frightened-but-honest witness, pragmatic killer - but they are believable stereotypes who behave logically, relying on their wits. If the watchword of Hyams' Outland was professionalism, in Narrow Margin it is self-reliance. Both sides have to make the most of what is to hand in a restrictive environment that works against them equally.

If this enclosed environment had been a spaceship and the killers aliens, Narrow Margin might have wowed them at the box-office. As it is, without an easily exploitable angle, it proved one of the most mystifying of Hyams' frequent financial disappointments: Hyams at his peak was the consummate commercial film-maker, yet paradoxically his films were never very commercially successful. With impressive performances from Hackman, Archer and Hyams' regular James B. Sikking as the businessman-like killer who prefers negotiation to coercion, Narrow Margin deserved much, much better. It's a good movie, and one you won't just watch once.

Unfortunately, neither the UK PAL DVD or the Region 1 DVD isn't particularly good, with no real extras (although both offer a widescreen transfer). You're much better off tracking down the Region 2 German PAL DVD, which comes with an exclusive audio commentary (in English) by Hyams, as well as brief featurette, behind-the-scenes footage and theatrical trailer.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is a terrific thriller with excellent performances by Gene Hackman, Anne Archer, J.T. Walsh, James B. Sikking, M. Emmett Walsh, and Susan Hogan. There are also some terrific action scenes. This film is guaranteed to keep the viewer on the edge of one's seat.
The plot is simple. A woman, Carol Hunnicutt (Anne Archer), goes on a blind date with an attorney (J.T. Walsh) with whom a well meaning friend has set her up. He gets a business call that he needs to return, as soon as possible. She accompanies him to his apartment. She excuses herself, while he makes his call, and goes to use the bathroom. In the meantime, he is visited by one of his clients, Leo Watts, and another man. Watts confronts the lawyer with the fact that he knows that the lawyer has gotten himself into a financial hole and has, consequently, stolen a lot of money from him. The lawyer, knowing Watts to be a ruthless mobster, begins to cry. Carol, overhearing the commotion, cautiously opens the door, only to see the other man with Watts execute her blind date.
Terror stricken, she sits mute for some time and then disappears to a remote Canadian location, where she is ulimately tracked down by Los Angeles Deputy District Attorney Robert Caulfield (Gene Hackman) and a Los Angeles Police Department Detective, who has accompanied him. They are working on the case involving the death of the attorney, and they believe that she may have some relevant information, as her fingerprints were discovered at the crime scene and traced back to her via an old anti-war protest arrest.
Unfortunately, Watts' men also find her, almost simultaneously, and the games begin in earnest with the detective killed in the process. Robert and Carol make a run for it and board a train headed towards Vancouver. Right behind them are the hit men, who also board the same train, hot on their heels. A life or death cat and mouse game commences. What happens on that train will keep the viewer riveted to the screen. This is, without a doubt, a well executed thriller.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Director and writer Peter Hyams took the bold decision to reimage one of the best film noir crime pictures of the 1950s, and all things considered it’s not half bad. Without getting close to the greatness of Richard Fleischer’s 1952 claustrophobic suspenser that is.

Having Gene Hackman and Anne Archer heading up your two principal characters is a good foundation. As the district attorney employee and witness to a mob killing respectively, both actors come up trumps for their director as they are thrust into a game of cat and mouse aboard a speeding train. As the Canadian wilderness outside the train’s windows soothes the eyes, the cramped interiors make for good suspense as Hackman plays the calm to Archer’s panic.

There’s nothing new here in terms of thriller conventions, and the pitfalls and familiarity of the plot’s ideas keep it from hitting better heights: people still do dumb things – important details are all too quickly swept aside – laws of gravity non existent and etc. But refreshingly Hyams resists the chance to insert a cloying romance, while his staging of suspense scenes are very well handled. But of course he’s got Hackman being as cool as a cucumber. 6.5/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 June 2012
Gene Hackman is always watchable and he shows real star quality in this tightly plotted thriller. Anne Archer is great as usual even though she doesn't have a great deal to do as a witness in a mob trial and the damsel in distress. Peter Hyams is a steady hand in the directors chair and without realising I've collected a handful of his films, Capricorn One, Outland, The Relic, without realising that it was his directorial style that drew me in. The showdown on top of the train is a fab example of action, tension and suspense without the need for CGI or explosions.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 11 September 2011
Graham Greene used to divide his novels into 'entertainments' and more serious literary works. By that classification this is firmly in the entertainment category. Anne Archer is the reluctant witness of a mob killing, she ends up on the run, with Gene Hackman. Cue much shenanigans on a train going through the Rockies. The film is firmly in the Hitchcock school of entertainment, relying on a a good script, some shocks, some twists, and much ingenuity to keep you engaged throughout. The director Peter Hyams has directed a slew of films over the years, and he proves a safe pair of hands with this one. Whatever budget he got to make it, it is all up there on the screen, with some decent action sequences that will make you jump even now. Special effects mostly okay, though some use of models is noticeable at points.

This is the sort of film that perfectly suits a Sunday afternoon, a little old fashioned, but entertaining and enjoyable. Probably not as good as the slightly similar Witness - Special Collector's Edition [DVD] but a decent thriller nonetheless.

Minor blood and violence, but nothing that should unduly bother teenage children, though they may be a little mystified as to why no-one in the film has a mobile phone.
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