A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
“End of the Line” is a movie that belongs in more innocent times.
It would have made a heartwarming fantasy for the 1930s, maybe as the second half of a double bill with “My Man Godfrey,” the comedy about the “forgotten men” of the Depression. But the forgotten men of this film live in crueler and more cynical times, and it almost was impossible for me to believe in them, try as I would.
The movie takes place in Clifford, Ark., along about now. From glimpses of a corporate board meeting during the opening titles, we know that the town's major industry, the railroad yard, is about to be shut down. The railroad plans to abandon trains and enter the growing field of air freight (anyone who reads the financial pages will be amused by the board's acumen in giving up a regional monopoly to enter a cutthroat field). If the railroad leaves, Clifford will become a ghost town, and all of its colorful inhabitants will have to seek employment elsewhere.
During the first act of the movie, which contains its best moments, we meet some of the local denizens. There is Wilford Brimley, playing Will Haney, a veteran trainman who can only be described as the movie's Wilford Brimley character. Will is a folksy, lovable, eccentric old coot who can get downright mad when he gets his dander up. Will's best friend is Leo (Levon Helm), a younger man who also has devoted his life to the railroad.