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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Greetings again from the darkness. For some reason, I keep thinking
director Tony Scott will re-capture his magic of "Crimson Tide".
Instead, he thrives on being the center of attention, rather than
letting the story and characters unfold on screen. How he mangles the
great cat-and-mouse game of the original "Taking of Pelham One Two
Three" is pure torture to watch.
In the original Walter Matthau and the icy cold Robert Shaw were brilliant. Here Travolta is way over-the-top with all his "MF'ers". Denzel, for all his greatness, is simply miscast as the nice, working class hero. In the original, NYC shots were gritty and real ... here they are Tony Scott disco complete with flying cars. Since when does a car collision send one of the vehicles soaring and somersaulting? And why does a skilled motorcycle cop ram right into a parked vehicle? Just a ridiculous action sequence.
Also in the original, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo and Earl Hindman (Wilson from Home Improvement) were Shaw's team and each had their own personality. Here Luis Guzman is given little to do and I couldn't pick the other two out of a line-up after just watching the film! John Tuturro and James Gandolfini are the only others with much to say. Gandolfini is a nice combo of Giuliani and Bloomberg, and provides at least a touch of humor. The story is expanded from a pure heist film to a bit of distorted revenge by Travolta, a disgraced Wall Street stud.
Just not much good to say about this one since I don't believe it stands on its own and it certainly can't hold a candle to the original.
It started like any ordinary day; that's likely what N.Y.C. subway dispatcher Walter Garber, an employee of questionable character, was thinking when he got up and went to work in the morning. Little did he know that he'd become the confidant and 'stand-in' hostage negotiator for a prickly criminal mastermind who takes over the Pelham subway train and demands money in exchange for the lives of its passengers. Hearing the names Washington, Travolta, and Scott creates a lot of anticipation, but unfortunately what wants to be a slick combination of suspense thriller and character study instead results in a ponderous film with a weak setup, predictable plot twists, shallow characters, and little tension. It's easy to watch with actors of Washington and Travolta's caliber at work, but Scott's direction is pretentious and throws out some obligatory action scenes that seem to exist for the sole purpose of padding the time on the way to an expected climax. The leads do what they can with the strained material but really deserve better. **
I went to the this most recent remake of Pelham 1-2-3 (most don't even
recall the made-for-TV version filmed in Toronto - with good reason)
with an open mind. I was weened on Godey's book when 8, and saw the
original film when it was released a few years later. I've committed
practically every line and scene to memory. I'll admit.... I'm biased.
I felt the original could not be successfully remade... the gritty
feel, the outstanding David Shire soundtrack, the believable
performances of the ensemble cast..... and I was right. I did not go
into the theater hoping to hate the remake, but instead to like it. I
REALLY wanted to like it. I have always enjoyed both Denzel Washington
and John Travolta in their various endeavors and thought the chemistry
might work fine here. While entertaining, it became almost tiresome
after a while. I felt no tension, no "edge of the seat" sensation that
the original brought, I found myself disliking most of the characters
and really not caring what happened to them. It passed the time, had
some thrills, but that was about it for me.
The '09 version is entertaining, with some excellent action scenes and more than a few decent dialog exchanges between characters, but it is nothing more than a Tony Scott action movie dressed up as "The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3". While starting off liking Washington's character (now disgraced MTA administrator-turned dispatcher Walter Garber, as opposed to Detective Zachary Garber in the book and original screen incarnation), I found, as the movie progressed, that he went from believable to just another two-dimensional action movie hero who, if he was what as he really started out as being, would not have ended up doing what he did in the film. Sorry, no spoilers here gang. You'll have to go judge for yourselves.
Travolta was dynamic, putting in a great performance, but I found his manic characterization not befitting as the supposed master-mind of the criminal plot involved. Remarkably, there were three other hijackers in the movie. I don't know why Scott even bothered including them. They were not only ineffectual characters with lackluster performances, but totally lacked the dynamic presence and interplay between the hijackers of the original film so much so that you barely even noticed them - or cared. Oh well, I guess it would not have been practical with only one hijacker....
The dizzy camera-work and stylized production were tedious at times and distracting. The soundtrack was, IMHO pure garbage.
Like I said, I found it entertaining, but despite some opinions that the "updated" and "freshened" plot was exhilarating and an improvement on the '74 incarnation, I honestly don't think the Matthau/Shaw/Balsam version need worry about being eclipsed by this remake. Go see it though, as it is fun summer fare and if you have no ties to the original, you'll probably find it relevant. Afterward, do yourself a favor and rent the original. You'll see the way the story was meant to be done.
"Taking of Pelham 123" was the movie that had it all. A great director
in Tony Scott, screenwriter in Brian Helgeland (Man on Fire, LA
Confidential), and leading men in Denzel Washington and John Travolta
each doing what they do best. To its credit, Washington and Travolta
keep it afloat. This is the kind of movie both can do in their sleep
and watching them go one on one with each other is the film's main
bright spot. Were also in for a pretty exciting ride as Tony Scott
swings his camera around New York city streets and underground subway
tunnels. Though this remake of the 1974 film starring Walter Mathau and
Robert Shaw proves to be a little less than the sum of its parts.
Washington plays Walter Garber, the chief detective for the MTA currently involved in some controversy over a bribe he may or may not have taken. While that's being worked out, he's been reassigned to desk duty as dispatcher in the subway command center. Just today will be a day unlike any other as armed men hijack a New York City subway 6 train and hold all of its passengers hostage. The leader of the hi-jackers wishes to be called Ryder (John Travolta), and tells Walter that he wants 10 million dollars within an hour or he will start executing hostages. The cops (led by John Turturro) are brought in but Walter remains as the lead negotiator at Ryder's request.
Short on actual plot, I was expecting more of a character driven movie and early on it appears to go in that direction. There is a great scene where Ryder puts Walter on trial for the bribe and it leads you to think that these two are going to butt heads in dialogue-driven scenes all day long, exposing each other for who they really are. Just the battle of wits ends there, which is unfortunate cause the movie really crackles whenever they talk to each other. Travolta, sporting a menacing goatee and tattoo, is at his over-the-top, f-bomb-dropping, lunatic best and Washington is his level-headed, average-guy adversary.
The rest is all action. Car crashes and shoot-outs take place, the car crashes coming within a sloppy scene where the police travel by motorcade to deliver the money and the shoot-out starting from a rat crawling up a guy's leg of all things. Both feature no important characters and situations that are manipulated. The finale comes before you know it, a chase through the streets of NY that's more exciting because it makes more sense. And Tony Scott, despite using clichés like counting down the clock and going into slow-motion, keeps the movie gritty and fast-paced. As for the rest of the cast, James Gandolfini, playing a New York Mayor, is good comic relief, getting jokes about Giuliani, subways, and the Yankees but Turturro and Luis Guzman, playing a disgruntled MTA employee working with Ryder, don't get much to do.
"Pelham" works pretty well as a thriller because the Tony Scott-Denzel Washington teaming (this is their fourth go-around) always seems to do so and adding Travolta, always fun as a villain, is another nice touch. Just it doesn't always leave you engaged in what's happening, whether because the plot or the action lacks humanity. Still it's held together by good acting and solid direction and for that alone it's worth a ride.
I was surprised to find this remake of the 1974 thriller was actually
pretty good. I thought that, because it was a remake by an
explosion-happy director (Tony Scott) and starred ultraham John
Travolta, it couldn't possibly be all that interesting. Maybe a mild
diversion, but those are a dime a dozen during the summer. But hey, big
shock! It's actually pretty tense, with just enough twistiness to
fascinate without seeming implausible.
Of course, the biggest reason the movie succeeds is Denzel Washington. Washington plays a disgraced (investigation pending) transit executive who's currently slumming as the control chief. On his shift, naturally, a 1:23 train out of Pelham (New York City) suddenly stops in the middle of its run, and a hijacker demands $10 million to be delivered in exactly one hour, or passengers start dying unnaturally.
What makes this a little more than your typical cat-and-mouse game is the undercurrent of what's gotten Washington character into hot water, as well as Travolta's character's actual motives. After all, he's just grabbed a subway full of hostages, but obviously he can't just ride the car to Cuba, or something. He has to have an escape plan.
Washington and Travolta play off each other very nicely, with Washington's flawless portrayal of a flawed man far more convincing than Travolta's garden-variety unhinged wacko. Essentially, Washington was good enough to counterbalance Travolta's overacting. (Is he crazy, or is he just cleverly acting crazy? Who cares?) Washington's Walter Garber is unsure of himself, an actual Everyman thrust into a madman's master plan. It's roles like these that separate Washington from people like, say, Tom Cruise, guys who can play really only one character, the Man Who Knows Everything. Walter Garber not only isn't a "seize the day" kind of person, he shies away from confrontations he knows he can't win.
Also worth noting are John Turturro (as a hostage negotiator displaced by Washington, since Travolta won't talk to anyone else) and James Gandolfini (as Hizzoner, finally playing a mayor who's not a complete nitwit). Gone is the whimsical naming convention from the first, in which Robert Shaw named his comrades after colors, which was swiped by Quentin Tarantino for Reservoir Dogs. There are some changes from the original, true, but they don't seem contrived; for example, Walter Matthau was a transit cop in the 1974 version, not some under-investigation suit.
The action is tense throughout, especially since you assume that the hijackers are going to have to murder someone at some point (otherwise, why have a deadline?) Somehow, the movie manages to be gripping and realistic without being over the top. There are some minor bouts of nonsense (did we really need to know that Garber needed to bring home a gallon of milk?), and maybe in the final 20 minutes or so it's a little by the numbers in its approach to action, but overall it's not bad at all. It's certainly a lot better than I'd expect a John Travolta movie to be, but maybe that's because he's the bad guy here, and they're practically expected to be over the top.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Technical wizardry does not make for a good film. Mix in an annoying
jazzy score, guitar riffs and some violin music, a couple of overrated
actors, and you get TTOP123.
First off did Denzel do a reverse DeNiro and gain 50 pounds for this role? He looked like fat Albert "on a good day." Travolta, also sporting an earring or two -- what are these guys, two metrosexuals wanting to do each other? -- alternately drops f-bombs between ridiculous soliloquies about his tortured past and while plugging a hostage or two just to break the boredom. OK, he was reading bad lines, but he did not make for a believable villain, alternately scowling and laughing or otherwise mugging for the camera. Compare to the superb Robert Shaw, who played the character with calm menace that was 10 times as scary.
Plot holes? By the bushel. First off, there's Denzel's wife, in the middle of a tension-filled crisis in which blood is being spattered left and right, badgering her husband to bring home a gallon of milk. Could anything be more ridiculous? Maybe a producer promised the woman some more celluloid time on the casting couch, but the role was entirely superfluous and the 10-minute scene of the couple talking sweet nothings on a cellphone while bodies are dropping everywhere was one of the funniest I've ever seen.
Then there's Travolta, $300 million richer, thanks to his manipulation of the stock and commodity markets, worried about a paltry $2.5 million cut from the heist, weighing around 55 pounds, that he had to lug around at the end during his escape.
No disguise, easily identifiable, Travolta and the rest of the gang blithely stride through midtown Manhattan carrying big heavy satchels of cash, trying to hail cabs with thousands of people milling around and hundreds of cops. Travolta's character was about as stupid as you can get, riding and then walking in broad daylight, inviting easy capture. A more plausible ending would have had him stroll into the Waldorf, get a room and disguise himself until he could try to get away later, setting up a cat-and-mouse finish.
But there was no imagination, no humor, no intelligence, nothing whatsoever to justify making this movie other than its sole purpose: another big paycheck day for the two stars. Watching Gandolfini play mayor, I couldn't help thinking that if he was Tony Soprano, he would clip the entire cast, crew, director and production team and dump em all in the East River.
Save your money and rent the original.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, from the minute I saw the trailer, this
looked like it was going to be such an exciting thriller. We have two
great actors in the leads: John Travolta and Dezel Washington. Where
could you go wrong with that? So my boyfriend and I saw this movie a
couple nights ago and had a great time. The movie was intense and
provided very good action
there is a huge but
the film just fell
flat at the end. The first and second act are extremely entertaining
and beyond intense, two power house actors pulling in very decent
performances, had great chemistry and did a good job with the script
they were given. But what the heck was with the ending? We shift into
this Action 101 book of clichés list and was a complete let down. As a
movie, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is certainly entertaining, but when
it comes to being realistic, yeah, it's pretty bad.
Four heavily armed men, led by a man who calls himself "Ryder," board a New York City subway 6 train, then proceed to take control of the train. Meanwhile, MTA dispatcher, Walter Garber, is assigned to the Rail Control Center due to an ongoing investigation that he took a bribe to recommend a Japanese car manufacturer for the next subway car contract. The group then uncouple the front car from the rest of the train and hold the passengers of that car hostage. Ryder and the hijackers settle down on the front car, demanding $10 million dollars in ransom money to be paid within the next 60 minutes. For each minute past the deadline, one passenger aboard his car will be killed. Garber and Ryder exchange conversations though the microphone, Garber agrees to have the city pay Ryder the $10 million ransom. Lt. Camonetti enters RCC, and Garber's boss, who has a rocky relationship with Garber, orders Garber to leave the premises. Camonetti takes over the hostage negotiations, infuriating Ryder who demands that Garber be put back on the mic and that he will speak only to Garber. Beginning a very award friendship as the clock ticks down to get the money for the hostages.
Over all I would recommend this for a matinée show or just a rental, it's nothing I would say to rush out and see. It's still a decent enough movie that I'm shocked John Travolta actually made a good choice in taking. He's a great villain when he wants to be and he proved that in Face/Off. Denzel also did a great job as this poor man who just coincidentally was having an average day and now all of a sudden has the added pressure of having lives depend on him. But like I said there are some major flaws that came with this film as well, there were unnecessary moments like what was with the kid and his computer? It had nothing really to do with the story and wasn't that vital. The nice army black man that jumped in front of the gun to protect the kid, the kid's mother talks to him before, but turned out to be unnecessary. Still as silly as these flaws are, it's still a fun movie to watch, I'm glad I checked it out.
A surprisingly enjoyable and tense thriller. While it does have a good
bit of the kind of silly excess that ruins most summer blockbuster
movies anymore, those flaws are overshadowed by the tightly-wound
script and a couple of good performances from Denzel Washington and
John Travolta. Director Tony Scott seems to have spent a good bit of
effort trying to channel the spirit of 1970's American movies, and
often this pays dividends as the focus on grittiness over spectacular
action sequences ups the suspense. It's interesting that as the movie
approaches the end you can feel the director's 21st century comic-book
instincts straining against the genre he's working in as the story
becomes increasingly less believable and more "heroic."
Nevertheless I can recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys a suspenseful action movie that doesn't beat you over the head with histrionics from beginning to end. Admittedly I've never seen the original, and I can easily imagine those who love it might be substantially less enthusiastic about this remake.
The original "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" (1974) starring
Robert Shaw and Walter Matthau is a classic. Tony Scott's remake, "The
Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" (2009) is not.
This remake begins with what has become the obtrusive and defining style of Tony Scott's recent pictures.
Frenetic editing, sudden wipes, stuttering frames, rapid focus-pulls, repetitive zooms and ear piercing sound design to punctuate every moment. This style soon becomes sickening and you wish for a moment a shot would simply hold for more than 3 seconds without constant self-conscious cinematic gimmicks.
This arranged marriage of production effects even made me laugh out loud when during a helicopter shot of the New York skyline, the sun disappears behind some sky scrappers and each time it does you get a "whoosh" sound followed by a train "beeep"!
Soon after this nauseous beginning, a simple edit of Denzel Washington sitting at his desk is badly botched when a mid-shot cuts to a close-up and he is looking and sitting in a completely different position!
On top of these shallow post production and in-camera effects, the core of the original has been dumbed down with a profane and ranting script. The joy of the original ending has gone to be replaced by guns, ranting, salutes and machismo.
Gone is the tension and excitement of the original. Gone is the subtlety of performance. Gone is the humour. In fact everything that made the original great has been wiped clean from this horrendous exercise in style over content.
The wife asks for a gallon of milk (a ridiculous scene) and I am sure you would have a better time trying to drink that gallon of milk in one go than suffer this atrocious attempt at film-making.
Tony Scott is less talented than his brother but still showed promise with his early work. If he continues down this route of brain damaged film-making, I will avoid his pictures as I do those of Michael Bay and Ron Howard.
The new Tony Scott movie gives one helluva ride, but don't sit and
analyze the plot for credibility during the closing credits, this is
not that kind of movie. Four sleazy thugs, who could be spotted as bad
guys by a blind man, hijack a Lexington Avenue subway and take
passengers as hostages. A ransom-for-hostages negotiation begins via
radio between the driver's compartment on the train and the central
control center for the New York City subway system. The premise is
hardly new territory, and, for those who have seen the
Walter-Matthau-Robert-Shaw version of the John Godey novel, the film is
even less original.
However, for audiences that want a night out at the movies with a rousing action flick, "The Taking of Pelham 123" will fill the bill nicely. The editing is often frenetic, and the camera moves even during dialog-heavy scenes. The chases are fast paced, the car crashes are over the top, and the bloody scenes are properly bloody. While all of this is enough for some mindless entertainment, four excellent performances enhance the proceedings and make the film seem better than it is. John Travolta pulls out the stops as Ryder, the head hijacker, and, in his full wacko persona, steals his every scene. As the man on the other end of the phone, bespectacled Denzel Washington, dressed down in everyman frumpy, is quiet and assured, although nothing quite suggests that the character of Walter Garber will or could rise to his climactic actions. James Gandolfini plays the mayor with a sly sense of fun, and John Turturro is a hard-to-gauge hostage negotiator. "Pelham" is a man's movie, and the women are relegated to small, peripheral roles as wives, conductors, and hostages. How refreshing the film might have been if Scott had cast a female in one of the four main roles.
However, whatever the movie's flaws, and there are many, "The Taking of Pelham 123" does what it sets out to do: entertain and engage the audience for two hours. Don't expect more, and you won't be disappointed, and, in a summer movie, "Pelham's" assets are exactly what most of us are looking for anyway.
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