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The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

2009-09-23 10:18

What's it about:

When the Pelham 123 subway train is taken hostage by Ryder (John Travolta) and his armed gang, he inadvertently gets connected to dispatcher, Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), to whom he issues his demands. As the police frantically try to take control of the situation, Garber realises that his contact with Ryder on the isolated train may be the hostage’s only hope and finds himself in the role of reluctant hero.

What we thought:

The Taking of Pelham 123 is rather restrained when compared to director, Tony Scott’s other films (Man on Fire, Déjà Vu), favouring slow building tension over balls to the wall action. That is not to say that The Taking of Pelham 123 is dull – quite the opposite – the claustrophobic setting and believable situation make it far more thrilling than watching a plus forty Denzel Washington nonchalantly shoot his way through dozens of henchmen.

Denzel Washington is on fine form here, playing Walter Garber, and it is refreshing to see him in this sort of movie playing a person you could actually meet in everyday life. He’s an unrepentant desk jockey who shies away from danger (like most of us would), and he even has a bit of an intriguing back story. To his credit, Denzel does meek very well, and still gives him enough charisma to make him the captivating lead.

On the other side of the coin is John Travolta’s tattooed Ryder, who seems to be a nod towards Vincent Vega, but doesn’t have Tarantino’s distinctive dialogue to carry the attitude. He’s not a terrible character by any means, but he easily fits into the generic villain category. Travolta has the screen presence to fill out the space, but some of the quirkier lines (obviously meant to make the character seem edgy) are contrived to the point of being cringe worthy.

The verbal sparring between the two leads is rarely dull, and it plays off the action sequences very well and a good supporting cast keeps everything exciting. There are great performances by John Turturro and James Gandolfini as an investigator and the mayor respectively.

While it won’t win any awards or move anyone deeply, The Taking of Pelham 123 is a lot a decent thrill ride that avoids many annoying action movie pitfalls. Recommended for a mindless Friday night with your buddies.

This remake of the 70s classic hostage drama on a New York subway gets an enjoyable makeover.

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