The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)
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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.
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.
Sadly, while the cinematographer is keen to make sure we know this, nobody else seems that bothered because the film does nothing to justify the sweeping camera movements and pumping soundtrack. In terms of physical "money up there on the screen" action, there is very little and what there is just seems thrown in for the sake of having some action (the car crashes trying to get the money in on time) rather than being part of the film. This in itself is not a problem by any means, because the nature of the plot did always suggest that the spark would be in the dialogue and the interplay between the two stars. Sadly this is lacking as well. It isn't "bad" though, but it just lacks spark, impact and tension. The problem is mainly with the script but director Scott doesn't seem to know what to do with it all anyway and seems desperate for characters to get shot or for things to crash into something just for the sake of having action. Travolta appears to be happy just to ham it up with a simplistic performance that matches the basic feel of the film. Washington had the harder job and suggests he could have done it with better material and direction – instead he is thrown into forced dialogue and unlikely semi-action sequences towards the end. The supporting cast is pretty good through with a handful of HBO faces in there (Sopranos' Gandolfini, Generation Kill's Kelly and The Wire's Akinnagbe). Gandolfini, Guzman and Turturro all do the good work you would expect from them, although again all are limited by the material.
It is not an awful film, so if you are looking for a glossy but basic thriller with stars and a big budget then this will just about be good enough to pass the time. The lack of spark and tension is the killer though and this the film cannot compensate for no matter how many time the camera swooshes around or the editor makes quick cuts – the failure is deeper than that and nobody appeared to be able to address it to make this film better than it was.
The story was obviously meant to be a sort of a low-key thriller, where most of the action takes place on a psychological level, in the interaction between the hostage taker (Travolta) and a hapless train operator (Washington) who happened to be on the shift when the takeover took place. And at times, it is exactly that. The scenes where Travolta forces a confession out of Washington and offers hostages in exchange for the mayor (the Soprano guy) were great. This is where the movie shines, where it's the way it was meant to be.
However, Scott apparently thought this tension-filled psychological mind-game would be too high-brow for the average consumer. So he decided he must do everything in his power to make the sucker more EXTREME, you know, the way modern kids like it. And how in the would would a prolific Hollywood director like Tony Scott make a bunch of tension-filled conversations more exciting?
You've guessed it. This is yet another modern movie suffering from the infamous shaky camera syndrome. If you enjoy your POV flying loopdeloops around the room, shaky closeups of character faces and stop-motion intermezzos (and all that during an average dialog scene), you're in for a treat. A direction style normally reserved for action scenes was used to effectively detract the viewers' attention (and source of their tension) from the events inside the plot to the director outside it.
Scott obviously knew this, which is why he made sure the little action this movie has (and NEEDS) is as EXTREME as humanly possible. Thus, a simple matter of transporting two bags from point A to point B is turned into an idiotic and completely needles car chase, that destroys more property than there's money inside the bags. Then, there are Travolta's nameless henchmen, who are apparently there solely to die gruesome bloody (and EXTREME) deaths. And finally, there's the main bad guy himself, who isn't content to simply head-shot his helpless victims but must empty his entire clip into their jerking bodies, while droplets of blood and guts spray over the screaming hostages. EXTREME!
Really, if Tony Scott wanted to make an action movie, why he didn't just order an action script? It's not like he's some rookie who must film whatever is given to him.
Speaking of the script, forced action is hardly the only thing wrong with it. Throughout the movie, police snipers have hostage-takers in their sights and can end the crises in the moment they are ordered to shoot. But for some reason, no one gives the order, nor is anyone apparently in charge of giving it (where is the police captain coordinating the hostage negotiations and SWAT shooters)? What government would rather pay millions than try a rescue operation if there's even the slightest chance of success? And where's the FBI and SEALs taking over and icing Travolta in a minute?
On the other hand, why bother at all? Very soon, the police finds out identities and faces of everyone involved in the heist. With traffic cameras on every street corner and other assets of the 21st century law enforcement, the criminals are screwed, whether they escape the train or not. Doesn't Travolta know that? After becoming a YouTube legend, how long would it take someone to recognize his face and twitter him over to the police (LOL ITS THE SBWAY DUDE !1!!)?
Considering all this, you'd think the bad guys must have a really good reason for engaging in such a risky enterprise. And really, throughout the movie, Travolta makes it a point to portray his character as a desperate man living on the edge, staking his life in an all-or-nothing game against the might of the city that had let him down. Only later, we learn his entire scheme-within-the-scheme depended on him investing $2 million from an earlier robbery, so he could make hundred times as much on the market, when... wait, what!? He'd rather risk his life, kill a bunch of innocent people and spend the rest of his life in hiding, than retire with *just* two million!? That burning urge that drove him through his crazy scheme wasn't idealism or revenge or even the simple desire to get rich, but the desire to get even RICHER!? He must be the craziest, greediest, most idiotic millionaire on Earth. And a douche bag to boot.
These baffling inconsistencies in the plot make much more sense when we take in account this is a remake of a movie originally published in the early 70-ies. Back then, they didn't have the Internet, cameras and Nazis in charge of airports. The bad guy actually had a chance of getting away with his ingenious plan. The least script rewriters could have done was give Travolta and his men masks, or some other way of concealing their identities.
On the other hand, watching a pair of eyes talking into a radio for 90 minutes would have hardly made for an exciting film, so I guess I can see why they decided to sacrifice believability for the sake of character interaction. Now if only Scott would slow down the camera enough so we could actually see that interaction...
So, was there anything good about this movie? Surprisingly Travolta's acting. All the Scientology stuff aside, you can see why he was once considered an A-class star. Great job. Washington was very good too, you can really tell the panic taking a hold of his character when Travolta forces him to confess. As I mentioned earlier, radio dialogs between the two of them were truly the highlight of this movie.
Too bad the rest of it was sacrificed on the altar of blockbuster popcorn fun.
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.
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.
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.
"The Taking of Pelham 123" could be a good movie, with a story with potential and great cast. Unfortunately it is spoiled due to flaws combined with the usual exaggerations of most of Hollywood action movies. There are terrible moments that really destroy the story, such as: (1) why the corrupt Garber would confess the true story of his bribery? He could have told a fantasy to satisfy Ryder and keep secret of his kickback. (2) Why the ransom was not transported by helicopter? (3)Why that imbecile girlfriend would insist on asking her boyfriend to say that he loves her in such a tense situation? (4) Even in an unusual day like that one, how could an investment be multiplied by 150 in a few hours? Two million dollars transformed in three hundred million dollar in less than two hours is simply ridiculous. (5) Why should Garber risk his life following Ryder? (6) Why should two criminals under siege of a large number of police officers and without any protection shoot their guns? (7) Garber had less than six minutes to reach the location to deliver the money and spends precious seconds talking nonsense with his wife. (8) Why would a cold blood killer like Ryder with three hundred million dollars to pay bribery pacifically surrender to Garber? I listed only some absurd and silly parts that insult the intelligence of any average viewer. Unfortunately I have not seen the original movie to make a comparison. My vote is six.
Title (Brazil): "O Sequestro do Metrô" ("The Hijack of the Subway Train")
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.
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.
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.
Many other reviewers here have dealt with their criticisms in comparing the new version with the original. I will not. I can't improve upon them. However, consider this. Washington's character has just been the primary negotiator for the "good guys" in a tense hostage situation; has been virtually forced, for the good of others, to put his life in danger to deliver the ransom money to hijackers of a NYC subway train; at the end, in a kill or be killed scenario, he must shoot the ringleader(Travolta)of the bad guys. His background? A former train engineer who is promoted to a pencil pushing executive position.
Now tell me, wouldn't this be a situation where Washington's character might require some psychological debriefing for his own mental health? Not in this flick! Nope, he goes home dutifully with the gallon of milk his wife requested during the tense negotations with the hijackers! By the subway, of course! Immediately after his ordeal! Incredible... and that's what this movie is in the worst definition of the term.
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.
This film is a remake of the 1974 original starring Walter Matthau alongside Jerry Stiller and Hector Elizondo. The filmmakers took some liberties with the story, which enhanced it. For instance, Garber is no longer Lt. Garber, a transit cop. "Pelham" is a by-the-numbers heist flick; the good guy will win, but the fun is seeing how he'll do it. Because Garber is no longer a professional crime fighter, an otherwise predictable (although enjoyable) premise becomes more suspenseful.
Also, the updated story portrays technology as both a blessing and a curse to good effect.
Washington and Travolta deliver engaging performances. Playing a relatively low-key, almost geeky civil servant is an interesting change of pace for Washington. Travolta is terrifying as a disturbingly intelligent crook who oscillates between being sadistic and amiable. The conversations between Garber and Ryder touch on fate, relationships and even contain moments of humor. Such lines, in the mouths of less capable actors, would have been tedious.
A standout in the supporting cast is John Turturro as police negotiator Officer Camonetti, who inserts himself into the hostage situation. Although playing a hard-boiled cop, Turturro handles the role delicately and prevents Camonetti from becoming a caricature.
One slight disappointment is that Garber's wife Therese (Aunjanue Ellis) does not factor into the film that much. Her appearance in the film's trailer is half of her appearance in the film. One would think that there would be plenty of home-related conflict considering that Garber's situation could result in professional, if not fatal, consequences. But then again, the story plays out in a little more than an hour, so the short shrift makes some logical sense: Perhaps there wasn't enough time for panic to mount.
This performance-driven (I had to make a pun somewhere) crime thriller is a must-see for the summer.
For instance, Joe Niceguy Garber-Washington is sent home by his superior after the NYPD hostage negotiation team moves in. So what does Psycho Bad Guy Ryder-Travolta do? He freaks out, threatens then murders a hostage in cold blood in order to get Garber back on the mike. No one, not Garber , the cops, or his colleagues even says something like: "you psychotic bastard what did you shoot an innocent man for you scum? That was not one of your demands." Instead the pacify him and act like it was the city's fault the man was shot. The original had a subway management guys who insulted and refused to cooperate with the hijackers until prodded by Garber. One of them was even murdered in the original when he walked down to the captured subway car unarmed and alone, and kept berating the hijackers. Then Bad Guy threatens to murder a teenager unless Good Guy admitted he took some bribe he was accused by the MTA of. Of course Good Guy fesses up, saving the youth's life. But when you add that to the last scene of Bad Guy murdering the motorman over Good Guy's absence, you have to wonder how someone so childish and impulsive could ever mastermind a sophisticated crime that took planning and others, as well as his previous life as some master of the universe. It reminded me of one of those "crazed vet with his gun in the room full of hostages for no particular reason" sort of scenarios, not a complex heist like this.
Both of the leads had all sorts of background story fillers that the original did just fine without. Then there is the mayor. In the original he as played by a nobody but he and his coterie of advisers were funny as he struggled with a cold. When he asked if paying off the hijackers would get him any votes, the reply was that he would get the hostages' votes. In this one Gandolfini as Mayor walked through the role, providing not much more than a cameo. Both movies had a car accident scene when the police were running the money from the federal reserve bank to the subway station cross town at high speed through downtown. But this one had about 3 times the footage as well 3 times the wrecks, for what purpose, NASCAR fans?
I could go on and on, but this one just had two stars, one hamming, the other loafing with a bunch of trick editing and some extras to fill up space. It was technically a good film with good production values so I gave it a 3 instead of a 1. The best think about this movie, when compared to the original, is to show us how bad things have slipped in Hollywood.
Thank goodness for Denzel. Incapable of delivering a bad performance, Scott's go-to man (this is their fourth collaboration) salvages this run-of-the-mill action / thriller with his nuanced performance and sheer charisma. As Garber (first name Walter as a nod to Matthau who played his 1974 counterpart), Washington finds a nice balance between your every day worker and someone able to step up in this extreme situation. Travolta doesn't succeed as the foul-mouthed psycho Ryder at all, his go-for-broke portrayal is laughable and ensures we can never take him seriously. Supporting players Gandolfini and Turturro are solid but don't have much to do.
Don't waste your money seeing this on the big screen, wait the six months and rent it on DVD. Better yet, skip this and see the remarkable original Pelham instead.
Do I have to repeat it ? It's important to remember that whilst the original only having two sets , the subway control room and the subway train the original film managed to carry itself by some smart dialogue and character interaction . This obviously isn't enough for director Tony Scott and the production crew who feel the need to bludgeon the audience to death with MTV style camera work , editing and score . It's as if the production team think if people are being held at gun point on a train that's not exciting enough for a cinema audience so feel the need to insert sequences regardless of it makes any sense or not
It might have been a good idea to make the hostages in the train interesting . The original film succeeded on this score even if they were slightly offensive in their ethnic stereotypes but hey nothing is perfect but even that was preferable than a jarring cut of police cars zooming around the city with crash zoom lens , then to even this up we get a sequence in slow motion . The only people in this film who deserve any credit are the hairdressers who gave John Travolta the same hairstyle as me
1. Why would you deliver the money across NYC in mid afternoon by car vs. flying it by small helicopter (when facing a 38 minute deadline)?
2. Even then, surely you would know the best car route and block off the intersections in advance (vs. using a rolling roadblock) and thus, avoid two collisions (and potentially killing pedestrians on the most crowded sidewalks in the country).
3. You've got snipers surrounding the train car and can clearly see two men sitting in the front and two men standing in the back with guns. Give the signal and plink all four at one time.
4. A truly well-trained negotiator would have taken command of the scene and never let some smuck supervisor tell Denzel to go home. The negotiator knows that whomever establishes the initial report with the terrorist leader is critical on the scene.
5. Someone that Wall Street savvy also knows the SEC can trace and track activity that amounts to $307 million in a single day. How'd he think he could run from that?
I could go on but.., why?
This is simply another remake that disgraces the original.
Scott has replaced the wit, nuance and subtlety in the original film with yelling, bombast, some pointless action and noise.
After the screeching title credits, I actually thought Scott's remake showed promise when it settled into telling the story of the hijacking of Pelham 123. I liked the initial interaction between Denzel Washington's Walter Garber - a tribute to Matthau, perhaps? - and John Travolta's Ryder. There were the seeds being grown for a thrilling cat-and-mouse game.
But then Scott's needless wizardry comes to the forefront. The dazzling camera work, the fast edits, the obnoxious music that simply overpowers scenes.
Honestly, one cannot blame screenwriter Brian Helgeland for this. I am sure had Scott eschewed some of the technical razzmatazz for the story, going for substance over style, there might actually be an entertaining picture here.
Then again, Helgeland shares some blame for the story. Ryder is the only hijacker we get to know. The others, including one played by Luis Guzman, are completely forgettable. We only see them shooting guns or walking around the train carriage. They are cyphers and of little use to the plot. Watch this and then consider the 1974 original, where we got to know the other hijackers - they had some depth, they were fleshed-out - because director Joseph Sargent actually cared about delving into his characters.
In this remake, Garber is a civil servant, as opposed to a cop, with a shady past. Washington is up to the task of playing this Everyman character. There's a nice calmness to him, even though Helgeland has deprived Garber of any humor or spunk. Though, in a van attempt to give Garber depth, we have to sit through superfluous scenes involving Garber's wife.
Then, there's Travolta. Is it possible that Travola, like Al Pacino, is fast-becoming a caricature of himself? That was certainly the impression I got from watching this version of "The Taking of Pelham 123." Travolta's performance is so over-the-top that it simply is tough to take seriously. This is over-acting of "Battlefield Earth" (2000) proportions.
The trouble with Helgeland's screenplay is that it is riddled with giant plot holes. It really doesn't take a genius to figure out Ryder's background. But just in case we are too daft to get it, we are given hints as subtle as thunderous gunshots. But if Ryder is supposed to be as smart a person as he is, just consider his getaway plan. It borders on ridiculous. I can see why the other characters might want to abscond with the money, but why on earth would Ryder, given what we know about him? And given what we know about him, why would he want anyone to know what he looks like?
The action sequences are completely over-blown. Some even don't make any sense. One involving a parked car and a cop is utterly pointless. Action scenes have to make sense, there has to be a reason for them. It might look cool to blow things up and have vehicles crashing into each other, but if they don't have any meaning, they make no sense. That is the case in Scott's film.
"The Taking of Pelham 123" is the kind of film that gives Hollywood a bad name. Not that there are not style-over-substance movies that aren't enjoyable. Take Hong Kong actioners such as "So Close" (2002) or "The Killer" (1989), for instance: Despite their style, they still succeeded in being movies that one could get engrossed in. They are thrillers that thrill.
Scott uses slam-bang in a failed attempt to drum up thrills. He and Helgeland had a great chance to update the story and make a thoroughly exciting and captivating thriller with two strong, intelligent men matching wits. Instead, what we have is a boisterous, needlessly noisy, mindless action film that ignores an enticing premise because it is far more fascinated with car crashes than with nail-biting suspense.