Review: The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009)

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009)

Directed by: Tony Scott | 105 minutes | action, thriller | Actors: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzmán, Michael Rispoli, James Gandolfini, Victor Gojcaj, Ramon Rodriguez, John Benjamin Hickey, Alex Kaluzhsky, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Katherine Sigismund, Jake Richard Siciliano, Gary Basaraba, Tonye Patano, Aunjanue Ellis. Jason Butler Harner, Robert Vataj, Adrien Martinez

Originally a book by John Godey, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3′ was already made into a movie in 1974. “But the world, and New York in particular, has changed a lot since then,” said director Tony Scott. So it’s high time for a modern version.

As if Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) didn’t have enough trouble already. Suspicious of taking bribes, his annoying boss has already demoted him to supervisor on the New York subway. And now he also has to deal with a subway hijacker. The hijacker’s name is Ryder (John Travolta), who, along with three other tough guys, is out for money. Lots of money. Within an hour that is, and for every minute they have to wait longer they will kill one of the hostages in the car. Always nice, such a threat. Garber is therefore very upset about the situation. Especially when it turns out that Ryder only wants to do business with him. As time goes on, they learn more and more about each other and Garber realizes he’s up to his neck… Can he save the hostages with his knowledge of the subway network?

Anyone who knows the work of Tony Scott (‘Enemy of the State’ (1998), ‘Man on Fire’ (2004) and ‘Deja Vu’ (2006)) knows what to expect; lots of speed, visual creativity and a little less emphasis on the story itself. ‘The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3′ fits that image in every way. And the problem with that is: you’ve seen it all. The story itself is nice, but it doesn’t get very exciting. When you get the feeling that Ryder is pointing his gun at you and is demanding a desired response from Garber within seconds, then you’ll be on the edge of your seat for a while. But such moments are rare and the race against the clock feels too unbelievable. Just like there are all the necessary inconsistencies in it. Why, for example, do the subways in the other shafts just keep going when there’s a hostage situation a few meters away?!

Very big plus points are the performances by Denzel Washington and John Travolta. Despite the fact that they have contact with each other most of the time in separate rooms, they still manage to make a nice cat-and-mouse game. But the gentlemen should also be able to play these roles with their eyes closed when you consider their resume. Travolta seems to have walked away from ‘Swordfish’ (2001) – but neatly cut – and Washington has a lot of flashbacks from ‘Deja Vu’ (2006) and ‘Man on Fire’ (2004). But this is already his fourth collaboration with Tony Scott, so it won’t be a coincidence. You won’t go wrong with ‘The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3′ if you feel like a not too complicated, fast, somewhat predictable film with big names that can provide the whole with something extra. It’s just not innovative in any way. So you’re left with the question: was that ‘contemporary version’ really necessary?

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