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The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
5 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Tony Scott

Written By:
Brian Helgeland, John Godey

John Travolta, Denzel Washington, John Turturro, James Gandolfini, Luis Guzmán, Jason Butler Harner, Brian Haley, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Michael Rispoli, Ramon Rodriguez, Chance Kelly, John Benjamin Hickey, Tonye Patano, Jason Cerbone, Adrian Martinez, Ty Jones, Katherine Sigismund, Eliezer Meyer, Mark Vincent, Daniel Stewart Sherman, John Lavelle, James Thomas Bligh, Joseph Cintron, Dawn Douglas, Brad Lee Wind, Douglas J. Aguirre, Bryant Pearson, Courtney S. Bunbury, Teddy Valdes, Neville White, Ryan Shibley, Angel Rosa, Mike Houston, Laurie Cole, Chris Parson, Sean Meehan, Catherine Pierce, Aron Charach, Tony Joe, Alex Kaluzhsky, Jake Richard Siciliano, Victor Gojcaj, Jake Richard Siciliano, Rene David Ifrah, Nicholas Rich, Douglas Schneider, Todd Travis Warrick, Robert Vataj, Julian Walker, Zach Poole, Brieann Rich, Vince Puma, J. Bernard Calloway, Carl Low, Chip Brookes, Ben Greene, David Ptalis, CarloVito Santangelo

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The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
June 12th, 2009

'The Taking of Pelham 123' is a remake of Joseph Sargent's 1974 adaptation of John Godey's gritty novel, which starred Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw. Though not as good, or as tense, as the original, this version has its merits. Director Tony Scott obviously utilizes some unnecessarily flashy and pretentious camerawork, to liven things up, this is his trademark, and it works better in something like Domino. This movie is more of a psychological thriller, and Scott does not betray that, but he does bring it closer to action territory, though its focus is on the clash between two personalities, that of dispatcher Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), and psychopath Ryder (John Travolta), who takes over a New York subway train and demands $10 million in 60 minutes, or he will start killing his hostages.

He is not bluffing. He takes a liking to Garber, and refuses to speak to anyone else, including experienced police negotiator Camonetti (John Turturro). Garber explains that he is just an ordinary guy, a cog in the machine, if you will, but perhaps that is why Ryder finds him appealing. Garber is facing suspension on the suspicion that he took a bribe. The Mayor (James Gandolfini) inserts himself into the situation, concerned with his upcoming retirement and perhaps not wanting his term to end in disgrace, with a mass murder of his citizens.

You can compare this to Die Hard and Speed; in Die Hard, there was the relationship between Bruce Willis and Reginald VelJohnson, in Speed, Keanu Reeves and Dennis Hopper. There is hardly any setup to speak of; we are plunged immediately into Ryder's scheme, and we do not learn much about his background, except what he reveals to Garber. Garber is a more fully-fleshed out character, played convincingly by Washington. Garber has been placed in a scenario where he gets a chance to do something heroic, to atone for his past mistakes, since the bribe allegations are likely true and have tarnished his career.

Garber possess no extraordinary talents; he is not trained to deal with people like Ryder, but he can nonetheless make a difference, and emerges as the only person who can thwart disaster. Camonetti is initially distrustful of Walter, and thinks he is out of league, and there is also friction between Walter and his boss, John Johnson (Michael Rispoli). On the other hand, there is no discord at all in Ryder's gang; his three subordinates follow his commands, and never contest his authority. Travolta makes for an interesting, menacing villain, but he is not as memorable here as he was in Face Off. He still has fun with the role, though.

Gandolfini and Turturro are excellent. Contrived final act is intended to morph Walter into an action hero; this segment is out of sync with everything that precedes it, but it is not an insurmountable flaw. Washington sells it, despite his Walter being visibly out-of-shape, and thus not able to carry out physically demanding feats of speed and agility. The original is still superior, but, this is still an effective update.

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