REVIEW: Narrow Margin (1990) – Hackman On A Train - ManlyMovie

REVIEW: Narrow Margin (1990) – Hackman On A Train

Runtime: 97 Mins
Rated: R
What To Expect: Gene Hackman vs pissants on a train

You could put Gene Hackman in a TV gardening show and it would be manly.  Easygoing yet authoritative, the guy brings an everyman quality to his roles.  And here he’s working with Peter Hyams, an old Van Damme regular who gave us TimeCop and Sudden Death.  This is basically Hackman vs the mob within the confines of a train, though don’t mistake it for some type of Die Hard clone.  It’s a slow burner that likes to occasionally ram through some passable action sequences.  All said, it’s pretty lean and suits both Hyams and Hackman.

The always awesome J.T. Walsh (And I do mean always) starts this movie off – and he appears too briefly, a fuck-up by the makers of this movie. Then it is down to business with Hackman protecting a female witness on the train from mobster assassins. The broad is arrogant at first, not appreciating her situation.  But she is soon put in her place by blunt Hackman-isms – “These guys have automatic weapons, and if they see you, they’re gonna kill you”.  See, if it wasn’t for Hackman, I wouldn’t have listed this movie here.  Hackman will do that to a movie – elevate it with his own kind of directness.  Crimson Tide is another example, an otherwise limp movie if it wasn’t for Hackman reaching for it by the fucking neck.  Hackman also enjoys the occasional bout of trolling.

Not that this movie is poor by itself.  I mean shit, it’s directed by Peter Hyams.  This guy knows how to stage an action sequence.  There aren’t many here, it’s not that type of movie.  And while the chase in the first act is hardly George Miller-level stuff,  it is competent.  I wonder if Hyams had watched Commando prior to this, looks that way with the chopper sequence. Hyams can do small time pressure pretty well too, the rest of the film works the whole suspense thing pretty good.  It’s claustrophobic and makes good use of the train.  Hackman is cool. And eventually when left with no recourse and has had enough shit, he has bodies flying off the train like loose luggage. 

In a way, this is a good movie for people who may not have liked the reccent ‘Non Stop’ with Liam Neeson.  Same kinda deal only more effective.  If you haven’t seen it before, make haste.  Find it and enjoy it.  1990, eh.  There’s that year again, you know it’s a good year for manly movies when this is considered second-rate for the time.

People should do themselves favours and watch more Gene Hackman movies.



  1. TheOldMcClane

    May 7, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    Sounds good. Will check it out.

  2. mucho macho

    May 9, 2014 at 4:02 am

    I have a Gene Hackman DVD collection & i have this 1.
    Good choice.
    U can find it on Columbia House or Amazon.
    Bat 21
    Uncommon Valor
    Class Action
    Also good manly choices

  3. Mucho Macho

    April 4, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Manly Classic brought to you by a manly director & star.

  4. Andymovieman

    April 4, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    I watched enemy of the state and class action on Sunday both with Gene Hackman and that guy never ceases to amaze me. He’s a living legend.

  5. Jack Caine

    April 4, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    Fantastic movie. There’s some great stunt work on the roof of the train and Gene Hackman is on top form. Narrow Margin and Capricorn One are my two favourite Peter Hyams films. Love the dialogue and acting in this scene, as well as the payoff later in the movie where the bad guy tugs at his shirt collar and Hackman grins. Awesome stuff.

    • Mucho Macho

      April 4, 2018 at 1:49 pm

      👍 👍

  6. ColonelBobi

    April 4, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    It’s a cracking movie I feel like I’ve seen at least a dozen times but not for at least ten years. Need to rectify that soon as. The action scenes on the train roof are tiptop. You can’t ever bet against Gene.

  7. Jake

    April 4, 2018 at 10:48 pm

    This is a remake of Richard Fleischer’s classic 1952 film The Narrow Margin, which is the main reason it didn’t generate better reviews at the time.

    But it’s always been one of my favorite Hackman films (I actually just revisited it a few weeks ago), along with the others he made during this period like The Package, Bat 21, and Class Action.

  8. David Barber

    April 4, 2018 at 11:27 pm

    I saw this on TV years back. I can remember Gene’s final line to a woman just as she is about to kill him on top of a train. On a par with Silver Streak which I think had more spectacular action sequences. Around about this time, didn’t Gene also do a film with Dan Aykroyd and Ronny Cox called Loose Cannons?