The Taking of Pelham 123 (15)
Cast: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzmán
Director: Tony Scott
Running time: 106 minutes
There were a few things that worried me before I went to see ‘The Taking of Pelham 123’ and which resulted in me putting it off for a while for fear of being disappointed, the first of these was that it was a remake, and although I have never seen (or even heard of) the original it seems to be a rule of thumb that the remakes lack the context and originality that made the originals successful in the first place.
The second was that it had been getting pretty poor reviews. Now I’m not the sort of person that decides whether or not to see a film based on reviews, I feel films by their very nature as an art are too subjective, but when the overwhelming majority of sources that I could find on the internet pointed towards the conclusion that this was not a great film I started to get a little worried.
However I found that despite the poor reviews it’s been getting the critics couldn’t actually decide what was wrong, and Roger Elbert managed to sum it all up by saying “There’s not much wrong with Tony Scott’s “The Taking of Pelham 123,” except that there’s not much really right about it.” So, I went along anyway, and I thought it was brilliant.
For those that don’t know the plot here it is summarised: four heavily armed men lead by Ryder take control of a New York Subway train and proceed to demand $10 million for the hostages. Walter Garber, who is at the rail control centre when the takeover happens, is the person who takes the calls from Ryder and who eventually strikes up an interesting relationship with the aforementioned criminal, who we find out as the film goes on is more intelligent as we give him credit for…
No one can really argue with the plot which retains the intelligence and fast paced action that is never lost on audiences in today’s cinema, and despite the claims that it has been ‘wrecked’ I feel that Tony Scott has done a relatively good job of bringing it into the 21st century something that isn’t always that easy to do.
Moving onto the acting and I found that the film wasn’t lacking in that respect either – I found Denzel Washington played a part that managed to portray the average Joe Bloggs despite his Hollywood appearance. The second major player in the film, Ryder, was portrayed more of an intelligent man who was slightly mentally skewed, which I thought John Travolta again played very well. In fact this character was the focus for much of the critical slating but I found that the way in which he slipped between ‘light hearted-ness’ and mentally insane (at times it had easily the highest density of homosexual related insults and usage of the F word in any 15-rated film I’ve seen) made for a much more interesting ‘villain’.
So, an intriguing and well played bad guy, enough high tempo action to keep you on the edge of your seat, a plot that keeps you interested right to the end, a reasonable screenplay interspersed with genuinely funny moments and a good guy that eventually gives you that feel-good ending… perfect right?
Well no. Whilst in my opinion it is nowhere near as bad as lots of the critics would like you to think there are still a couple of flaws which let it down. The first one is the way in which various shots in between dialogue seem to have been shot like a music video with the camera dancing in and out of focus everywhere which in the context of a serious film is a little disconcerting, and this seems to be a constant thing which continues to offer mild irritation throughout the film.
Secondly at times the screenplay is a little strained, and although the cheesy lines are few and far between they are still irritatingly present; but that is a minor problem, as it is generally just the right balance between serious (and thus worth watching as an action film) and amusing.
In conclusion: yes, apparently they gave someone with a severe twitch control of focus and zoom, and yes the switching between the serious and mentally unstable criminal may just appear to be poor screenplay, but in my opinion this is a horribly underrated film and I would advise you to at least give it a chance because I assure you it has at least earned its keep!
The ‘Taking of Pelham 123‘ gets a solid 4 out of 5!