The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

The Taking Of Pelham 123
"Not completely irredeemable, but rarely in danger of thrilling."

You can tell a Tony Scott movie a mile off. Plenty of jazzy-yet-needless visuals, competent storytelling yet minimal characterisation and – especially in recent years – it’ll star Denzel Washington. Though a remake of Joseph Sargent’s much-loved ’74 flick of the same name, The Taking Of Pelham 123 is another effort clearly from Scott’s overly-stylish conveyor belt. Stripping the best elements of the original, Ridley’s bro predictably inserts a few choppy helicopters and some accident-prone car-chases…

On a seemingly ordinary day, transit dispatcher Walter Garber (Washington) finds himself caught up in a city-wide crisis. As the call came through his desk, Garber is forced to play go-between when a man named Ryder (John Travolta) hijacks a subway train full of passengers and demands a $10 million ransom within the hour. With an NYPB hostage negotiator (John Turturro) and the Mayor (James Gandolfini) getting involved, the deadline swiftly approaches.

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Although it’s not as offensively shallow as Transformers 2, there’s nothing here that wasn’t glimpsed at in the trailer. Playing out like an extension of the preview, it offers no themes, ideas or story turns that aren’t predictable to anyone who has seen about, oh, two movies. The premise will interest those who don’t demand much depth or originality from their films, but if you want to see Denzel doing some negotiating then Spike Lee’s Inside Man is the way to go.

With Mr Washington doing his stock good guy (a la every other Scott yarn he’s appeared in) and John Travolta doing his stock bad guy (a la Broken Arrow, Face/Off, The Punisher). even the characters are types we’ve seen before. Their com conversations offer a reasonable dynamic, but when Denzel goes all action hero it feels a bit odd and Travolta suffers from inconsistent character (jumping about from spewing profanity, waxing lyrical about religion, dropping in financial terms, executing passengers, befriending heroes…). You could bemoan the laptop getting internet connection in the subway, but the duo’s denouement corners the market in dodgy logic.

Not completely irredeemable, but rarely in danger of thrilling, Tony Scott’s The Taking Of Pelham 123 is – for lack of a better word – unremarkable. In short, while not a train-wreck, it’s not really worth the ride.

Reviewed on: 02 Aug 2009
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A group of armed men hold a crowded New York City subway train to ransom in this remake of the 1974 thriller.
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Leanne McGrath ****

Director: Tony Scott

Writer: Brian Helgeland, based on the book by John Godey

Starring: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, Luis Guzmán, Victor Gojcaj, John Turturro, James Gandolfini

Year: 2009

Runtime: 121 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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