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

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

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.