The Taking of Pelham 123

the-taking-of-pelham-1-2-3Armed men hijack a New York City subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turning an ordinary day’s work for dispatcher Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) into a face-off with the mastermind (John Travolta) behind the crime (IMDB).

Tony Scott’s attempt at remaking 1974’s “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” surprisingly fails, when in reality with all this talent involved, it should be sizzling. Not that there’s much you can do to improve the other classic film, but giving it a modern spin with scenery chewing actors like Denzel Washington and John Travolta should be one of the most exciting films of the year. Not to be. Scott’s infamous MTV editing that overwhelmed “Man on Fire” and “Domino” is on display here once again, the dialogue is trashy, and the director also seems to have little faith in the suspense of the story. Truthfully there isn’t much, unlike the original, and so Scott splices some ridiculous crash sequences (which really feel quite stupid) in between Travolta’s rantings.

That brings up Travolta, a talented actor and sometimes entertaining villain (Face/Off, Broken Arrow) and other times not so much (Swordfish). But what seems a perfect vehicle for him, turns out to be one of his most ham-fisted performances in quite some time. His constantly whiny bad guy, Ryder, seems to lack any shred of intelligence, and his dialogue in this thing is often unbelievably campy. While Denzel Washington has a settled in, humbled performance that doesn’t require much, Travolta is rather hilarious and doesn’t play well in generating any tense moments.

This new “Pelham” is not the wild ride and sparring match-up it should have been. I typically like Tony Scott’s work (True Romance, Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, Spy Game) and even much of his maligned work (Man on Fire, Domino, Deja Vu). But “Pelham 123” is a ludicrous bore that has none of the suspense of the original, and wants to be a popcorn actioner when it should be an intense thriller. A major disappointment. I encourage anyone interested in this film to check out the original film first.

-MJV & the Movies

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Rating: 3.0/5 (3 votes cast)
The Taking of Pelham 123, 3.0 out of 5 based on 3 ratings 2 COMMENTS


  1. I guess with a resume that’s as long as Tony Scott’s (though not quite as distinguished as that of his brother Ridley) there’s bound to be a few bumps in the road. What surprises me most, though, is your comments about Travolta and Washington. I haven’t seen Pehlam, or the original, but I’m doing a face palm here just thinking about those two guys in these roles. Why does Travolta have to overdo everything? Why can’t Washington loosen up a bit? Too bad their considerable talents have foundered once again…

  2. We watched this movie last night, and I think you’re dead on about Travolta. It’s like he’s out to prove to the world that he can still pull off the hard-edge foul-mouth criminal he has played a few times in his younger days. Talk about overacting. I liked Denzel, though: he’s the quintessential Everyman, and while the role is certainly not challenging for him, he does turn in a solid (but uninspired) performance. I did think the chases were a laughable attempt at throwing in some (gratuitous) action. The car wrecks did nothing to further the story and were only there to appease the Michael Bay fans who had stepped into the wrong theatre while trying to find Transformers 2.

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