An interesting concept that doesn’t quite come off. The Man on the Train follows two men and how each envies the life of the other. Jean Rochefort and Johnny Hallyday (a French pop singer) star. Rochefort plays Monsieur Manesquier, a mousy, reserved retired teacher living in small, out-of-the-way town. He offers his place for Milan (Halleday), an aging, hard-bitten bank robber who’s getting tired of the old game, to spend the night when the latter’s hotel is closed upon his arrival in Manesquier’s sleepy little town. Milan, we learn, is there to rendezvous with his gang so they plan their robbery of the town’s bank. While Hallyday’s character is taciturn and jaded–the way these rugged loners tend to be–Rochefort’s is gabby and delighted to have what he perceives as a roguish adventurer for company. The two get off to a bumpy start, but soon Milan warms up to his host and the two offer each a long-awaited chance to slip into the guise of the other, even if only as a lark. This movie’s got that very giddy, somewhat naïve French fascination with the American West, the Western genre, and all that. The color schemes are pretty cool: the look of the movie is split between the smoky blues of Halleday’s Milan and the warmer autumnal colors of the more gentlemanly Manesquier. And it’s well-acted too. But, ultimately, this all feels scant; this is a paper-thin excuse for a story, one whose characters are not that deeply observed. Laconte’s direction is calculative all the way, but his telling fails to register very much.
Directed by: Patrice Leconte
Written by: Claude Klotz
Cast: Jean Rochefort, Johnny Hallyday, Jean-Franςois Stévenin, Charlie Nelson