The Taking Of Pelham 123

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Review byMatthew Turner29/07/2009

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 106 mins

A typical Tony Scott all-style-no-substance production, this combines flashy direction and good performances from its two stars, but it's never a patch on the original film, lacks anything in the way of suspense or thrills and cops out with a disappointing climax.

What's it all about?
Based on the classic 1974 thriller, The Taking of Pelham 123 stars Denzel Washington as New York subway dispatcher Walter Garber, whose day takes a sudden turn for the worse when motor-mouthed gunman Ryder (John Travolta) hijacks the Pelham 123 train and demands a huge ransom. When the experts arrive (including John Turturro's terrorism expert), Walter's boss sends him home, but Ryder insists he'll only negotiate with Walter and shoots a hostage to prove his point.

With the clock ticking on Ryder's demands, Walter tries to stall him until the mayor (James Gandolfini) can get the money together. However, it soon transpires that Ryder's master plan is more complex than it first appears.

The Good
Travolta's done evil-but-charming before and his performance here is enjoyable enough, though you wish he'd had a bit more fun with it. Washington is as reliably brilliant as always (he even gained weight for the role, so as to make his character more of an everyman) and there's strong support from Turturro, while Gandolfini gets all the best lines and almost steals the entire film as the refreshingly pragmatic mayor.

The Bad
The problem is that Scott seems to lack confidence in the story itself and his usual flashy directing and editing techniques (all crash zooms, whip pans and split screens) seem to be frantically over-compensating for the fact that the bulk of the action takes place in a motionless train carriage.

Similarly, the predictable script lacks anything in the way of suspense or thrills, while the disappointing climax has clearly seems to have been re-shot to appease test audiences (check out the pointed focus on the safety catch of a gun, which goes precisely nowhere).

Worth seeing?
The Taking of Pelham 123 is never actually bad and entertaining enough while you're watching it but it's ultimately a case of style over substance. Watch the original instead.

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The Taking Of Pelham 123
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Content updated: 17/10/2019 09:47

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