Narrow Margin

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Narrow Margin
Narrow Margin 1990 Poster.jpg
Film poster
Directed byPeter Hyams
Produced byAndrew G. Vajna
Mario Kassar
Written byPeter Hyams
Music byBruce Broughton
CinematographyPeter Hyams
Distributed byTriStar Pictures
Release date
  • September 21, 1990 (1990-09-21)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$15–20 million[1]
Box office$10.9 million

Narrow Margin is a 1990 American crime thriller film directed by Peter Hyams and released by TriStar Pictures, loosely based on the 1952 film noir The Narrow Margin. It tells the story of a Los Angeles deputy district attorney who attempts to keep a murder witness safe from hit men while traveling through the Canadian wilderness aboard a train. The film stars Gene Hackman and Anne Archer.


Robert Caulfield (Gene Hackman), a Los Angeles deputy district attorney and a former Marine who fought in Vietnam, is attempting to take Carol Hunnicut (Anne Archer), an unwilling murder witness, back to the United States from Canada to testify against a top-level mob boss. Frantically attempting to escape two deadly hit men sent to silence her, they board a Vancouver-bound train only to find the killers are on board with them. For the next 20 hours, as the train hurtles through the beautiful but isolated Canadian wilderness, a deadly game of cat and mouse ensues in which their ability to tell friend from foe is a matter of life and death.



Peter Hyams watched the original film on television one night "at some ungodly hour" and thought it was ideal for a remake.[2]

"I didn't think the movie was terrific, but I thought the idea of people being stuck on a train was wonderful," said Hyams. "It harkened back to the kind of movie they don't make anymore. The idea of a train is very mysterious and romantic."[1]

Hyams got Paramount to buy the rights and set about writing a RKO screenplay. He felt the train in his film should be traveling through country "so forbidding that you can't just jump off and go to a rent-a-car counter" so he decided to set the action in Mexico or Canada. "So I took the train through the Rockies and was unprepared for how beautiful it is," said Hyams. "It was the most extraordinary scenery I've ever seen."[1] So he decided on Canada.

Lead roles went to Gene Hackman and Anne Archer. Hackman said, "Peter and I have talked about doing a film vaguely a number of times over the years and this came along and he told me that Anne was going to be involved. It's a good action-thriller. It has a lot of nice character to it."[3]

The film was shot in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada in June 1989.

The train used for both interior and exterior scenes consisted of a BC Rail SD40-2 diesel locomotive and 12 privately owned passenger railcars, all painted in Via Rail Canada livery to represent the Toronto-Vancouver passenger train. Some of the distant exterior shots were filmed using a model train.[4][1]


Narrow Margin received mixed reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 57% based on 14 reviews.[5] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[6]

Home media[edit]

The DVD released by Optimum Releasing in 2007 is the only DVD available of Narrow Margin with any kind of extra features; it contains a commentary by Peter Hyams, B-Roll footage, a brief documentary, sound-bites by the cast and crew, and a trailer. All other DVD versions of the movie have been without features.

Kino Lorber released the film on Blu-ray on June 30, 2020 with a new 4K master, containing the previous features from the Optimum DVD and a new commentary from film historian/critic Peter Tonguette.


  1. ^ a b c d 'Narrow Margin' Finds Its Route New York Times10 Sep 1989: A.14.
  2. ^ Quality, quantity collide in Gene The Vancouver Sun June 10, 1989: H6.
  3. ^ No guns to shoot Hackman's happy in his new role The Gazette June 11, 1989: H8.
  4. ^ "140+ Train Movies – Reviews, Top 10 Lists, Location Guide".
  5. ^
  6. ^ "CinemaScore".

External links[edit]