Hide-and-seek on a train has its limitations. The claustrophobic effect ("It doesn't stop till we get to Vancouver") is spoiled by the knowledge that everyone from Alfred to Hitchcock has travelled this way before. Even flashes of From Russia With Love keep superimposing over shots of opening the compartment door and finding a body there.

Writer/director Peter Hyams waste little time with foreplay. Carol Hunnicut (Anne Archer) witnesses a Mafia murder when her blind date, a scum smooth lawyer, is rubbed out while she is freshening up in his apartment. When the coast is clear, she escapes to her brother's log cabin in the Rockies, where she is tracked down by L.A District Attorney Bob Caulfield (Gene Hackman), who tries to persuade her to come back and give evidence against the killers. She's too scared and says no, until helicopter hitmen start an aerial assault.

Caulfield and Hunnicut make it through the woods to the railway station. They climb on the first train that stops and so do the baddies. There is a twist, however - the baddies don't know what Carol looks like.

And so, after a breathless 45 minutes, the game of hide-and-seek begins. Caulfield has to contend with other passengers, some genuine, some phoney, as well as that old chestnut, the cheat at HQ who works for both sides.

All this would be thrills-by-numbers if it wasn't for Hackman, He has the energy and ability to make every part matter; he never freewheels. Caulfield has a job to do and Hackman is there to make you believe it.

Hyams is lucky to have him. He's lucky with Archer, too. She feels the fear.

Reviewed on: 12 Sep 2004
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Narrow Margin packshot
Cat-and-mouse thriller about a woman who witnesses a mafia hit and finds herself on the run.
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Director: Peter Hyams

Writer: Peter Hyams, based on Earl Felton's script of the 1952 film The Narrow Margin

Starring: Gene Hackman, Anne Archer, James B Sikking, J T Walsh, Susan Hogan, Harris Yulin, Nigel Bennett

Year: 1990

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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