I finally got around to watching a movie I've been meaning to watch for some time, a Japanese movie called Bullet Train. Made almost 20 years before Speed came out, it involves a group of extortionists planting a bomb on board the titular train which will go off if the train drops below a certain speed. I watched the uncut version in Japanese with subtitles (I also have the "international" version which is shorter and has an English dub) and found it to be a very good movie, although not quite what I had expected.
First of all, my copy is part of a set of 6 Sonny Chiba movies and a lot of what I've read about it plugs his being in it as if he's the star, but in truth he's not in it that much. Don't misunderstand, he gives a fine performance as the train captain, but after the first portion of the film he doesn't have much to do. The stuff I've read about it lead me to envision him kicking ass and taking names on the train, but he mostly stays in the cockpit until the very end.
In fact, the real star of this film is Ken Takakura who plays the leader of the extortionists. This is the first film I've seen him in, and he does a fine job here. There are also a number of well-known actors in small roles in this film. If you blink, you'll miss Etsuko Shihomi (star of Sister Street Fighter) as a telephone operator who has, I think, one line of dialog. Takeshi Shimura, star of many Akira Kurosawa films and well-remembered as Dr. Yamane in Godzilla is sort of wasted here, having just two scenes as the head of the railway who mostly just apologizes to the Prime Minister, and Tetsuro Tamba (who James Bond fans will remember from You Only Live Twice) makes a few brief appearances as the police official in charge. A lot of time is spent on flashbacks providing backstory for the extortionists (who are portrayed in an almost sympathetic light here); apparently these were the main scenes left out of the cut version. There's also a lot of time spent on the subplot of a woman going into labor aboard the train.
All in all, this is a very good film that I would recommend to anyone who likes action with a good storyline. It is rather long (about 2-1/2 hours) but definitely worth watching.
You look at it, I'm bitter.