Vinnie Jones knows his limitations and is unlikely to tackle Death of a Salesman or King Lear anytime soon.
But, if you want an imposing, mute menace Vinnie’s your boy, and having settled into this schtick proves surprisingly versatile in giving the same old routine fresh little twists.
Here he is Mahogany (named after his solid build rather acting talent we charitably suggest), a well-attired man with expensive briefcase, who rather than overseeing mergers and acquisitions conducts murders and executions on a nightly basis in New York’s subway.
Mahogany’s nocturnal chores are disrupted when wimpish photographer Leon (Cooper) spies him slicing and dicing while on a midnight outing to capture the rotten apple’s nightlife on film.
Repelled but fascinated by the towering psycho, Leon begins trailing him around town, discovering that by day he’s a blue collar stiff lugging frozen joints in a meat-packing plant.
But, just how much is Mahogany allowing the photographer to see, and when Leon’s girlfriend (Iron Man’s Bibb) notices her boyfriend acting stranger and stranger, is the big man’s lunacy infectious?
Director Ryuhei Kitamura is best known for his “gangsters-meet-The-Evil-Dead” splatterfest Versus, but for his English language debut he tightens his notoriously wayward storytelling style and indulgent excesses, delivering a neat little shocker that plays as part detective story, part American Psycho meets Halloween.
Blue and red filtered visuals make this easy on the eye, even when Jones is getting ultra-violent with gleaming fetishised butcher tools on late night commuters (keep an eye out for Ted “brother of Sam” Raimi as one hapless traveller).
Liberal use of CGI and prosthetics make this one of the wettest, meatiest horror films you’ll see all year - beaten only by REC and Frontier(s).
Duration boosting subplots involving a NYPD conspiracy of silence and Leon’s apparent slip into madness strain at the seams (the source material is a very short story from Barker’s Books of Blood anthology), and budget restraints meant shooting in LA subways rather than New York.
But, Jones gives an admirably expressive, strangely sympathetic performance despite his mute character, Cooper is an adequately attractive foil, and even Brooke Shields crops up in a creepy as the art dealer who first sends Leon into the dark night.
The film weirds-out with some typical Barker monsters popping up late in the last act to give the story some kind of explanation, and the final reveal is Horror Twists 101, but The Midnight Meat Train is destined for cult status as an minor horror gem.