Written by special “The Film Nest” guest contributor, Rob R. (Raging Rob in the Comments section).
This summer movie season thus far has been filled with mutants, star ships, angels and demons, and some really hungover guys. What we need now is another remake, right? Well, maybe not, but this movie, The Taking of Pelham 123, is the first action thriller of the summer. Its directed by Tony Scott and stars two acting powerhouses in John Travolta and Denzel Washington. Every director has one actor that they love to work with and for Tony Scott, that must be Denzel Washington. Pelham marks their fourth collaboration together after Crimson Tide, Man on Fire and Déjà Vu.
The Taking of Pelham 123, is a remake of the 1974 film of the same name. The original starred Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw in the roles now played by Travolta and Washington. The plot of this new version has Travolta as Ryder, the leader of a group of thugs who take over the New York City “Pelham 123″ subway car. Once they have successfully done so, they threaten to kill the hostages within an hour unless a ransom in the amount of $10 million cash is paid. Every minute over the hour that their money is not received, a passenger will be executed. The man unlucky enough to have the only line of communication with Travolta’s hijacker is Walter Garber, played by Denzel Washington. Garber, a veteran of the transportation system, is just sitting in as a train dispatcher after having been involved in a scandal of sorts. The two men develop a rapport with one another over the notion that Ryder feels both of them have been screwed by New York City. As the minutes count down, it’s a race against the clock to meet the hijackers demands and deliver the money.
The two leads are portrayed expertly by Washington and Travolta, as both actors are accustomed to the type of roles they are playing here. Washington is a likable guy, as he is in most of his other films, and Travolta gets to go for broke as the crazy hijacker, not unlike his characters in Broken Arrow, or even Face/Off. I even wondered as I watched this, how it would’ve played out if they had switched roles? Travolta (without the silly toupee he normally sports) definitely got the flashier part, as he sports a handlebar mustache and neck tattoo. He also punctuates the end of every line with a resounding “mother fucker!”
Director Tony Scott, (Ridley’s Gladiator brother) has a very unique style of shooting movies; if you’ve seen any of his recent work, you know what I mean. He uses a lot of flash cuts, slow motion, desaturated colors, and grain. Pelham is no different, however his style does seem a little more toned down compared to his other efforts. It’s a very intense movie, with a ticker coming up every so often to inform us of the deadline for the hijackers money. The movie kept the frantic pace up almost to the very end. Unfortunately, I think that it goes on a little too long as after the film moves from out of the subway car it just feels padded for extra time. I would’ve liked to see a more concise ending that matched what the rest of the film was building up to. If you’ve seen most of the bigger movies released this summer and are looking to see something that’s not filled with CGI yet has some meat to it, I would certainly recommend going for a ride with the boys on subway car “Pelham 123.”