The Taking of Pelham 123 is a remake of the classic 1974 film starring Walter Matthau, which itself was based on a novel by John Godey.
A gang of terrorists, led by Ryder (John Travolta), hijack a New York City subway train and threaten to kill one passenger a minute after the deadline elapses that they set for a ransom payment. Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) is the dispatcher forced to deal with the mastermind behind the plot.
Washington put on a great deal of weight for this film, although I’m not exactly sure why. Are train dispatchers naturally heavy? Still it shows a commitment to the role which is commendable. Meanwhile Travolta tackles the unhinged, foul-mouthed villain that he is often asked to play these days. He does it with his usual crazy style. It’s a fine line as to whether he takes it too far or not.
To sum up the acting I would say that Washington is as watchable as always while Travolta’s performance is more of a love it or hate it affair.
Also guilty of having a crazy attitude towards his work is director Tony Scott. He’s a very talented director but he can’t seem to refrain from once again employing a visually bombastic directing style. The problem is that his approach isn’t really appropriate for what should be a tense thriller. It would have been nice if Scott could have been less flashy and added a little more substance.
Everything in recent Tony Scott films seems to be a little bigger, flashier and louder than it actually needs to be, with the result that his hyper-kinetic style of filming is just over the top. While someone like Transformers director Michael Bay can get away with it, the movies Scott has made in recent years don’t really warrant the same amount of energy that worked so well on earlier films like Top Gun and True Romance. It’s particularly true of The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3, as the original film is very much a slow-burner.
Overall the film is a decent, if overly flashy, thriller still if you’re lucky enough to see it on blu-ray then the, frankly stunning, visuals may make a ride on Pelham 123 look all the more appealing.