Short version: If you’re a fan of Travolta and Denzel you’ll probably like The Taking of Pelham 123.
Screen Rant reviews The Taking of Pelham 123
The Taking of Pelham 123 is a remake of the highly regarded 1974 film The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, which starred old-school actors Walter Matthau, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizando and Earl Hindman. I will confess that it’s probably been at least 20 years since I’ve seen it and don’t remember much about it – but I plan on renting it very soon to watch it again.
Like in the original, the story revolves around a handful of men who hijack a New York City subway train in an attempt to extort millions of dollars from the city using hostages as leverage. Denzel Washington plays Walter Garber, a console dispatcher at the rail control center of the NYC subway who happens to be on duty when the hijacking takes place. John Travolta plays Ryder, the extremely hard-edged leader of the train hijacking.
While the setup for the film is a pretty typical hostage taker vs. negotiator story, albeit with a “civilian” (Denzel) dealing with the bad guy (Travolta), there is plenty to keep you guessing. Ryder gives the city one hour to deliver $10 million or he will begin killing hostages, one every minute. Of course at first the good guys don’t know who they’re dealing with, but it doesn’t take long for them to determine they need to take Ryder and his crew very seriously.
Director Tony Scott gave the film a highly stylized look that was employed in overdrive during the opening credits which while cool, was thankfully used less throughout the film. They tried to inject some ambiguity into the plot in order to keep things interesting for the audience, but while Ryder’s plan was pretty evident early on, it wasn’t clear what was going to happen with Denzel’s character.
I enjoyed seeing Travolta chew up the scenery as an unadulterated bad guy, James Gandolfini was great as the mayor and it was a pleasure seeing John Turturro in an authority role not acting like a total idiot (*cough* Transformers *cough*). I also liked the New York City vibe that Scott imbued into the film. What didn’t fit was fitting a cross town car chase sequence into what was shaping up to be a fairly tense thriller – and it was even pointed out by characters in the film that they should have just used a helicopter.
There are plenty of tense moments in the movie and the interplay between the characters is very good – Tony Scott keeps you guessing as to who these characters really are and how everything will play out. You won’t be bored while watching this film.
Overall The Taking of Pelham 123 wasn’t all that bad despite what some critics are saying, and if you’re a fan of the actors listed above you’ll probably enjoy it.