Sunday, October 2, 2011

One More Train to Rob (1971)

Bland and slow-moving but harmless, the action/comedy Western One More Train to Rob benefits from the casting of leading man George Peppard in his natural idiom, because Peppard shines while alternating between smooth displays of virility and casually dispatched wisecracks. He plays Harker Fleet, a gentleman thief who gets double-crossed by his partner, Timothy Nolan (John Vernon), after a train robbery—Timothy steals not only Fleet’s loot but also his high-maintenance lady friend, Katy (Diana Muldaur), so Harker ends up in jail while Timothy enjoys the life that should have been Harker’s. Later, when Harker gets out of incarceration, he reconnects with his former friend and discovers that Timothy is scheming to rob gold from a group of Chinese miners. (The immigrants need the gold to support sick relatives living in San Francisco.) As should be obvious by now, the storyline of One More Train to Rob spins in a new direction with almost every scene as Harker’s characterization conveniently evolves from that of a charming rogue to that of an unlikely hero. To say that these narrative twists lack credibility misses the point, since the purpose of an escapist piffle like One More Train to Rob is stringing together fistfights and gunfights. However, there aren’t enough fistfights and gunfights; the film gets so mired in laying narrative pipe that much of the screen time is consumed by expository conversation. Furthermore, the themes are so generic that the picture feels like a highlight reel of Western tropes, and flat lighting gives the movie the look of bad episodic TV from the same era. (Even some of the supporting players, including Robert Donner, France Nuyen, and Soon-Tek Oh, are mostly familiar from small-screen fare of the early ’70s.) Peppard’s charisma and Andrew V. McLaglan’s efficient direction ensure that watching One More Train to Rob isn’t unpleasant, but everything about the movie is so artificial and irrelevant that the picture fades from memory the instant it’s over.

One More Train to Rob: FUNKY

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