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USA 2009
Directed by
Tony Scott
106 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars

Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3, The (2009)

The original film version of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three was a mid-70’s low budget, grittily realistic crime story directed by Joseph Sargent that was let down by a perfunctory last act. Nevertheless, it captured the mood of a struggling New York of the time and was a huge commercial hit. Now Tony Scott has been called upon to helm a remake. That could have been a good or a bad thing. What would have be good is if the stunts and SFX were better than in the original. What would be bad would be to lose that film’s authenticity and immediacy. Unfortunately there is no question that Scott’s slick, hyper energetic remake is facing bad, not good.

The story is more or less similar. There’s a handful of hijackers led by Ryder (John Travolta) who hijack a NYC Transit Authority train and demand a ransom of $10 million for the release of the passengers. Ryder’s opposite number in negotiations is FBI agent Walter Garber (Denzel Washington). There’s a deadline, of course, and for every minute past this point Ryder threatens to sacrifice a passenger.

The opening shots show banks of the hi-tech transit authority’s control room with big screens displaying not only data galore but raging Californian bushfires. Immediately alarms sound about what is to come. Unfortunately Scott confirms that the apprehension is justified by proceeding to overwhelm  the modest charms of original with stunts that are CGI’d to the max whilst Brian Helgeland virtually inverts the ratio between drama and action. There is little to be said for the results.

In the leads, an in-type Washington plays his familiar cool, calm and collected character and out-of-type Travolta has a crack at Dennis Hopper-ish psychotic. Although there are well-known names in the supporting cast, little attention is paid to them.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three could have benefitted from a remake but why anyone thought it would be improved by Scott's blitzkrieg approach I can’t imagine.

FYI: Washington had played an FBI negotiator to no better effect three years earlier in Spike Lee's Inside Man.




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