The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009)

"Good"

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009) Review


Excellent acting can save almost anything. Even the most mediocre script or hamfisted direction can usually be manipulated and salvaged by a couple of pros performing at their thespian peak. It doesn't always work -- the actors can and often do make their obvious attempts known, stealing so much of the limelight that the project can't help but implode. But for something like The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, a routine remake of a '70s pulp novel/post-modern thriller, star power is the all-important ingredient. The work of Denzel Washington and John Travolta elevates material that otherwise sits flatly on the screen. No matter how hard director Tony Scott and screenwriter Brian Helgeland try, the hijack/hostage material here plays as dated, and in some instances, dull.

For recently demoted NYC Transit Authority official Walter Garber (Washington), working the dispatcher's desk is just the latest in a rash of embarrassments. Under investigation for taking bribes, the longtime civil servant is resolved to do his job and not make waves. Naturally, all that changes when the subway out of Pelham City station is hijacked by four gun-toting criminals. Led by the mysterious "Mr. Ryder" (Travolta), their demands are simple -- $10 million in one hour. If the delivery is late, they will kill one hostage for every minute over 60 they have to wait. Initially, the Mayor (James Gandolfini) is convinced that the NYPD, under the direction of hostage negotiator Camonetti (John Turturro) will get the situation under control. But Ryder will only deal with Garber, and when he makes his deadly intentions known, the former front office man must save the day.

If you are looking for a simple, straightforward mainstream thriller without a lot of narrative bells and whistles, this newest version of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 will definitely satisfy said pedestrian needs. Sure, Scott seems convinced that neo-'90s shaky-cam chase scenes and rapid-fire editing are brand new and novel cinematic techniques and the script gives Washington and Travolta all the best lines, but a story like this draws us in. We wonder how the crime will be committed, how far the hijackers will go, what elements will aid in the investigation, and of course, how the last act money delivery/denouement will play out. And since our leads are compelling in their own individual ways, we're willing to see where it takes us.

But there is nothing really new here, no novelty or attempt to reinvent the genre. Unlike Inside Man, which took this kind of pot-boiler and introduced all manner of intriguing new aspects to the storyline, Pelham plays it safe. Early on, Washington's character is considered a suspect, his recent bout with internal affairs cranking up his possible accomplice profile. That subplot is quickly and cleanly done away with, however. Similarly, Travolta is finally figured out, and his high roller reality is really interesting. Sadly, nothing is done with it. Indeed, Pelham is just two guys squaring off, usually with engaging results. Some of the supporting players aid in the electricity (Gandolfini is especially fun), while others do their journeyman best and fade into the backdrop.

It's safe to say that, without Washington and Travolta, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 would have been a disaster. We never question the resolution, never believe in anything other than the standard Hollywood hero/hostage formula. The lack of suspense is stunning, considering the amount of effort put into creating same, and even when the guns start blazing, the outcome seems predetermined by the casting. Three decades ago, Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw delivered their cynical, satisfying take on this tale. In 2009, it's all meaningless movie mechanics, nothing more.

Aka The Taking of Pelham 123, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.

You pick which hand you get shot with.



Facts and Figures

Genre: Action/Adventure

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: , , Jason Blumenthal,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

Manchester by the Sea Movie Review

This may not be the cheeriest movie of the season, but it's so skilfully written,...

Live By Night Movie Review

Live By Night Movie Review

Ben Affleck launched his directing career 10 years ago with his film of Dennis Lehane's...

La La Land Movie Review

La La Land Movie Review

After storming awards season with Whiplash two years ago, writer-director Damien Chazelle returns with something...

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Assassin's Creed Movie Review

Hopes were high that this film might finally crack the curse of movies based on...

Silence Movie Review

Silence Movie Review

Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like...

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A Monster Calls Movie Review

A difficult movie to market, this isn't actually the BFG-style fantasy adventure it looks like....

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Monster Trucks Movie Review

Word has it that a 4-year-old came up with the idea for this unapologetically silly...

Advertisement
Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Collateral Beauty Movie Review

Dramas exploring the nature of death and the true meaning of life are always in...

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At 80 years old, British filmmaker Ken Loach won his second Cannes Film Festival with...

Why Him? Movie Review

Why Him? Movie Review

Writer-director John Hamburg continues to recycle the formula that made his first hit Meet the...

Passengers Movie Review

Passengers Movie Review

Anchored by the almost ridiculously engaging Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, this sci-fi movie travels...

Neruda Movie Review

Neruda Movie Review

Clever Chilean director Pablo Larrain (who also directed Natalie Portman's Jackie) takes on the Nobel-winning...

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

The Eagle Huntress Movie Review

Narrated by Daisy Ridley (The Force Awakens), this documentary is one of the most gripping...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.