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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