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Movie ReviewsRating: 4 of 5 yaps

Unstoppable

In “Unstoppable,” Tony Scott depicts Hooters as some sort of gastronomical rave for red-blooded guys — breasts thrust in diners’ faces, jiggling to thrumming electronica and bouncing on flatscreen TVs.

Were Scott ever given a table for one at Hooters, he’d be crushed to learn it’s basically Applebee’s with panty lines and cleavage — offering weak-sauced wings and key lime pie fresh from the deep freezer.

“Delightfully tacky” is part of Hooters’ slogan but a poor measurement of the chain’s popularity. Applied to Scott’s output — and, when he’s on, his appeal — the adage makes sense, and no 2010 film has served up action adrenaline quite as tacky or delightful as “Unstoppable.”

At 66, Scott is the oldest kid left in Hollywood’s sandbox. There’s no room for subtlety with this cigar-chomping sexagenarian — still crashing and smashing planes, automobiles and, now, trains with the same first-grader glee as in 1986’s “Top Gun” and 1987’s “Beverly Hills Cop II.”

Scott’s bag of tricks has been mixed of late — the nauseating bad-shroom visuals of “Domino” and “Man on Fire,” the cheesy Viagra-ad action of “The Taking of Pelham 123,” the limp star power of “Spy Game.”

Here, Scott goes loop-de-loop in a way that suits him — in constant command of a camera that could have chaotically swooped from news-chopper airspace to train-trestle rocks with little rhyme or reason.

Instead, Scott’s crew hammers home the Pennsylvanian pandemonium of “Unstoppable’s” juggernaut force — an unmanned train carrying hazardous freight and bearing down on a major city center at speeds approaching 100 miles per hour.

Aerial cinematographer David B. Nowell earns kudos for sweeping overhead shots of brittle communities browbeaten by a battering-ram economy and embedding viewers in the maelstrom of a speeding train. Mild inertia is all part of the “Unstoppable” experience.

The perspective isn’t just palatable, but pleasurable like no Scott movie since 1998’s “Enemy of the State.” “Unstoppable” is a terrific thrill ride tempered by sobering steel-city woes and blue-collar anxiety, but also buoyed by can-do optimism and work ethic.

Teaming with Scott for a fifth time, Denzel Washington is Frank, a veteran railroad engineer and widower estranged from his grown daughters after 28 years on the line.

Will (Chris Pine of “Star Trek”) is a hothead rookie conductor on the ropes with his wife. It’s likely that Will’s temper has terminated numerous jobs and he’s reluctantly relied on nepotism to keep this one.

In some ways, “Unstoppable” suggests a non-nuclear redux of Washington and Scott’s “Crimson Tide” (still their best collaboration), putting Washington in Gene Hackman’s role.

But it’s not instant antagonism in these cramped quarters. Writer Mark Bomback (“Live Free or Die Hard”) lets Frank and Will trade barbs, sling the lingo of an uncertain economy and establish salty, shaky camaraderie — fleshing out their laments and limitations for 50 minutes before sending them on a seeming suicide mission.

Frank and Will’s plan is the last-ditch effort to catch a tiger by its tail — slowing a train whose derailment could wipe out 750,000 people, including their families. Scolded by a corporate wag (Kevin Dunn) and stealthily assisted by stalwart dispatcher Connie (Rosario Dawson), Frank and Will try to couple their train to the runaway, reverse direction and jam the brakes without becoming “a wreck on a wreck.”

The results are a thunderous, jaw-dropping invocation of Murphy’s Law — maintaining “Speed’s” slingshot momentum sans cackling villain and in reverse, seeing as dipping below 50 is a good start.

It’s nailbiting fun once fit hits the shan, but “Unstoppable’s” unexpected patience has unadorned payoffs — convincingly testing metal and mettle.

Bomback, Scott, Washington and Pine script, shoot and speak third-act insights as they might be in reality: diffusion of tension and distraction from the plan’s sheer lunacy.

Washington — now 56! — always wears civil-service weariness well and here delivers a key revelation with everyman heft before an exciting, if improbable, train-top sprint. As in “Trek,” Pine shows what simmers beneath his surface, ably toe-to-toe with Washington’s expected heroism.

There are some laughably on-the-nose interludes en route to “Unstoppable’s” fantastic finish: the railroad’s CEO reached by cell on a golf course, concerned only about stock devaluation; hellacious-wreck happenstance that places a horse trailer in harm’s way; Kevin Corrigan dispatching impenetrably technical omens of doom as a safety inspector; and the laughably plumped-up scenes at Hooters.

But “Unstoppable’s” 98 minutes are pretty much gone in a blink with get-in, get-out action and great gusto — comfort food served with far more spice and flair than anticipated.

4 Yaps

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16 Responses to “Unstoppable”

  1. David Zebell says:

    I really liked this movie. And, I though I had already commented on it. It a must see for any drama / action movie goer. Based on a true story.

  2. LL says:

    I finally got to see this movie this weekend on Xfinity ON Demand. There was a lot of action for sure. The writing was a little weak. Denzel was entertaining as always.

  3. I saw this movie….. GREAT MOVIE…Full of action and will keep you on the edge of your seat!!

  4. toya says:

    I agree that this seems like this movie has been done before. It could still be a great movie, but i’ll wait to watch.

  5. Jason says:

    I am actually looking forward to seeing this film. Was not too crazy about Denzel’s last film, The book of Eli, but he is an awesome actor. This should be a good film to see this weekend.

  6. gwinjay says:

    I had not seen this film thinking it would be a about the same as the last train film that Denzel was in but now after reading this review I think I will see it this week end but I have a question, did you like it or not? Nick Rogers

  7. Cheryl W. says:

    There is noway Denzel is 56 already. He is still HOT! LOL. I was contemplating seeing this movie by myself this week, but I think I will hold off till I have a friend or my husband watch it with me. What fun is a thriller if there is no one to feel the tension with and talk about it over dinner with. Thanks for the review.

  8. Gina Fox says:

    I am looking forward to seeing this movie. I love how the "Hooters" analogy, it is hilarious. I love a good action film that keeps you on the edge of your seat and I love Denzel Washington, so that being said it is on the weekend agenda!

  9. Lance says:

    I haven’t seen the film yet but I’m hoping its pretty good. Even though Denzel tends to play a character similar to any other character he’s ever played (with the exception of training day), his movies usually don’t disappoint. Great review!

  10. Connie says:

    Was disappointed that Indianapolis didn’t get a screening of this. My cousin saw it in Columbus, OH and gave it a good review. I thought it might be "Speed" revisited, but not from what I am hearing.

  11. Michael says:

    GREAT ACTION FILM< cann’t wait to get it in my collection, a must see film . Kept me in my seat the whole time, did not even drink any so not want to go to the mens room.

  12. Brandy says:

    I didn’t even realize it was out yet. i thought they’d have advertised more for it. . . .I’m makin a trip to the theater! Thanks for the review!

  13. Amanda says:

    Having seen the film, I’m a little disappointed in this review. I had terrible seats (front row) and still felt that they did not diminish the enjoyment of the movie. This review on the other hand, would probably have me waiting for DVD if I hadn’t seen it already. I would recommend it to anyone and already have.

  14. Nick Rogers says:

    Ben: Thanks for reading and commenting, as well as the compliment! Yes, it could, in some respects, be described that way. If you do wait for DVD, be sure to watch it on a larger screen and with a good sound system. I imagine the enjoyment would be diminished otherwise.

  15. i thought this looked like "speed" had a baby with "taking pelham" and denzel is the baby daddy on both sides, great review. i however shall wait for dvd

  16. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nick Rogers, The Film Yap. The Film Yap said: Denzel Washington &amp; Chris Pine leap on a midday train to Pennsylvania. You should, too. Nick's review of &quot;Unstoppable.&quot; http://bit.ly/9lJbeC […]