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January 29, 2010

3

The Taking of Pelham 123

by Franz Patrick


Taking of Pelham 123, The (2009)
★★ / ★★★★

Tony Scott directed this thriller about a criminal (John Travolta) with a mysterious reason for taking a train full hostages. Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) thought it was just another day in regular train traffic, but once he got a call from the mastermind of the hostage situation, he had to think quickly and act swiftly to get to the right authorities and bargain for the lives of the hostages. For a hostage movie, “The Taking of Pelham 123″ should have been more exciting. For me, only the first hour of the picture really worked because Travolta and Washington’s characters constantly tried to measure each other up; they were both smart characters and each had their own flaws and far from innocent past. The mindgames they played with each other was more interesting than the last forty-five minutes’ car crashes, quick cuts aided by random blasting of music and gunfires. In fact, the last forty-five minutes was drenched in typicality, it was hard for me to sit through because I knew where it was heading. That excitement and spark that it had in the first half were completely elimated and I somewhat lost interest. I thought the supporting actors (who are usually great in other films) such as James Gandolfini (as the mayor), John Turturro (as a professional hostage negotiator) and Luis Guzmán (as one of the three criminals) were not pushed enough to make their characters come alive and make a significant impact in the story. Their characters could have been played by other actors and the movie would essentially have been the same. I also believe the movie had some serious problems when it comes to logic. For instance, the extended chase sequence near the end could have been completely avoided if the police had put trackers in any of the money bags. Since the police would know the exact positions of the criminals, the movie would not have wasted fifteen minutes of its time showing confusion and chaos. Overall, “The Taking of Pelham 123″ isn’t really a bad movie because more than half of it was right on track (pardon the pun). It’s just that it tried too hard to inject that Hollywood way of storytelling where a big chase sequence is a requisite. For a movie having characters who exuded edginess and intelligence, the movie was pretty dull and safe.

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Feb 4 2010

    Would have been better if Tony Scott didn’t go apeshit with the slomo/speedup dial every five seconds and if Travolta wasn’t reminding you that he was the bad guy by ending every sentence with “MOTHERFUCKER!” The original is so much freakin’ better than this. Tony Scott, man. What a hack.

    Good review and great site btw. Keep it up.

    Reply
    • Feb 10 2010

      Thank you. I enjoy reading you blog as well. I’ll definitely have to see the original. I saw potential in this remake, but just like you implied, you there were too many obvious elements. I think the writers forget that there are smart viewers in the crowd.

      Reply
  2. Jan 30 2011

    If the trademark Scott gloss serves as a superficial hook, his also-adept manner of building tension and suspense then keeps one interested. Good review, check out mine when you can!

    Reply

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