It's kind of happy-sad, like watching a kid you knew as a toddler graduate from high school: Chris Evans, seemingly destined to be a boy forever, is now officially a grown-up. In Bong Joon-ho's futuristic snowbummer Snowpiercer, the Korean director's first English-language film, Evans plays the leader of a group of have-nots who rebel against a bunch of haves, all stuck together on a high-speed train that perpetually circles the Earth, which a new Ice Age has rendered uninhabitable. Looking gaunt and bony, Evans is more like a cheerless hobo than an overgrown bro. Is that a good thing? He should be allowed to grow up, but Snowpiercer needlessly weighs Evans down, dragging us with him.
It's been 17 years since the massive freeze-out. The front of the train harbors society's crème de la crème, people with food, beauty parlors, and schools for their piggy children; in the back languish the undesirables, a bedraggled bunch forced to gnaw on shiny black "protein bars" that, we learn, are made out of something you really wouldn't want to eat. Evans's Curtis has had enough of this rich-vs.-poor divide: After enlisting the help of a drugged-out security specialist (played by Bong regular Song Kang-ho), he hopes to forge his way to the front and raise holy hell.
Even as dystopian dramas go, the picture is arid and lusterless in its more serious moments and unpleasantly kitschy when it tries to soar over the top. Not even Tilda Swinton, as a ruthless Margaret Thatcher stand-in with a prosthetic overbite, can keep it on the rails.