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

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

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.