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The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

A movie directed by Tony Scott

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A Film with Great Pieces of Acting, but in the End, Nothing Special...

  • Dec 1, 2009
  • by
At first glance, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, seemed like it was going to be a really entertaining film, full of action packed scenes with some really great acting put into the mix.  While Pelham did have some really good acting, the action sequences lacked the umph they needed to makes it a really good film.  With pain staking predictability added into the fold, Pelham 1 2 3 didn't make the cut.  This seems to be the theme for remakes these days though, they end up faltering because their predecessor is the superior film.  This films saving graces' were John Travolta and Denzel Washington who both were outstanding in the roles they were given.  If anyone else had been casted to play these characters, Pelham 1 2 3 would have been a complete disaster.

When Bernard Ryder (Travolta) and his henchmen take control of the 1:23 Pelham Station 6 train, New York City goes on high alert.  MTA dispatcher Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), a man under investigation for supposedly taking a bribe from a Japanese subway car manufacturer, is on duty during the incident and is the only person Ryder will talk to as he lists his set of demands and threats.  Ryder demands that 10 Million dollars in cash be brought to him within sixty minutes with the intention of killing off a hostage every minute after the deadline.  With time running out and Garber running out of ways to stall, the mayor (James Gandolfini), a man not well received by the city's public, gets involved as well as the NYPD's Emergency Service Unit head Lt. Camonetti (John Turturro).

The most bothersome aspect of Pelham 1 2 3 was how boring it was during the hostage scenes aboard the train.  Having watched all the special features, The MTA gave Tony Scott so much free reign in the tunnels of the New York City subway system, yet everything about those scenes seemed so flat.  No other film had so much freedom down in the dangerous subway tunnels and it feels as if it all went to waste.  The style of filming that Scott used was also executed poorly and often at times felt nauseating.  This trend that has been set with the shaky camera is getting really old really fast.  While Pelham is supposed to be more of a thriller than an action film, it just felt too stationary and the films 106 minutes went by way too slowly.  Tony Scott seems to have this problem often of making a good movie and then a bad movie.  It's unfortunate to say that his last really good film was Man on Fire back in 2004.

Denzel Washington and John Travolta really do save this film from being a total bomb.  It seems today as if Travolta has sold out to the entity known as kiddy films and that is horrifying!  John Travolta, who is known to be the bad ass of bad asses in action films like Face/Off or just plain cool in films like Pulp Fiction, doing kiddy films?  Puke!  This was his first film in god knows how long where he seemed cool again.  While Travolta played the bad guy in Pelham 1 2 3, he played it the way people like to see bad guys played... with authority.  The amount of times that Ryder says Motherfucker in this film has to take you back to 1994 when there was an F-bomb dropped every other word in Pulp Fiction.  Suffice to say, Travolta was convincing as a bad guy again.  And while Denzel Washington was sitting down for more than half the film, the words that come out of his mouth are amazing no matter what the role is.

The superior acting performances by the two leads of this film isn't enough to tell you to go buy or rent this film, it's just not worth it.  The Blu-ray is filled with ads which is just not ok and for the most part, the special features are lame.  Again, it has DTS instead of Dolby TrueHD so it's not compatible with all Surround Sound Systems.  Apart from that, it's just not a good film.  Stick with the original 1974 film, apparently, it's a lot better.  It's sad to say that Tony Scott has sold out and just does remakes now, but it's the unfortunate truth.  Stick to originals Tony, you're smarter than what you're making right now.  2/5.  
A Film with Great Pieces of Acting, but in the End, Nothing Special...

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More The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 reviews
review by . October 18, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Two great actors. Action packed. Kept me sitting on the edge for 2 hours or so and it's not because I didn't buckle up in the plane nor is it because there are air pockets!      Saw it on my flight from Hong Kong to Singapore on our very own tiny airplane seat screen. That didn't stopped me from enjoying an entire show though.      It was mostly dialogues and acting by the 2 main actors and yet it felt like the fast moving subway train. Yes, it's …
review by . November 06, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Not As Thrilling as the 1974 Action Classic But More Decent Than Most Crime Thrillers
   It has been maybe 10-12 years since I saw the original “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” and I think it would be safe to assume that a vast majority of the crowds in the multiplexes haven’t even heard of the movie. The original was based on the book by John Godey and while it has a very simple premise; but as I can remember, it was a great movie because of its simplicity. Directed by Joseph Sargent, the 1974 original had a very intense screenplay that fares detective Zach …
review by . July 22, 2011
It's astonishing that anyone considers Tony Scott to be anything other than a hack. Just a brief perusal of his oeuvre confirms this certainty: the moronic posturing and inexplicably unintentional homoeroticism of Top Gun; the noisy tedium of ostentatious actioners like The Last Boy Scout and Crimson Tide; odious, brain-dead vehicles for Denzel Washington and Tom Cruise (neither of whom have turned in a single noteworthy performance in over a decade) such as Days of Thunder, the lesser of two …
review by . August 12, 2010
Here we have another movie set in NYC, this time in it subway system. Denzel Washington plays the good guy and Travolta plays the bad guy. The plot is simple enough; a group of men take a subway car full of passengers hostage and hold them for ransom. They receive the ransom money and try to get away, but don't make it far due to Washington's cunning, quick thinking and craftiness. Besides the two main characters, the movie features a lot of smaller names such as James Gandolfini as NYC's mayor. …
review by . November 06, 2009
I like Tony Scott I think he's an awesome director with a great style and a brilliant way of film making. But he just didn't know how to use it, until now.               The Taking of Pelham 123 is a breathtaking, mind blowing, brilliant, atmospheric, stylish, daring and clever. It's an action drama or heist drama that's got the heart the depth of character and the emotion to be worthy of greatness. Tony Scott the director of such favorites as Man …
review by . November 05, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Tony Scott lavishes his directorial style on this remake of THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123, based on John Godey's novel and adapted for the screen by Brian Helgeland. For some viewers this ruins the gold standard of the original film: for this viewer it heightens the mass, faceless, rapidly paced anonymity of life on the New York subways and makes the pace of the story almost breathless. This time around Denzel Washington is the demoted dispatcher who must deal directly with the insane John Travolta and …
Quick Tip by . October 18, 2009
I just watched this movie on the plane yesterday. It's awesome acting by Denzel W & John T. Fascinating, fast paced & I highly enjoyed it!
About the reviewer
Julian Brown ()
Ranked #34
Hi, my name is Julian Brown. I currently write for The Brotherly Game, a local Philadelphia soccer website where I cover the US Women's National Team and the local WPS Philadelphia Independence. I … more
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About this movie


 The Taking of Pelham 123 is a 2009 thriller film, directed by Tony Scott, and starring Denzel Washington, and John Travolta. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Morton Freedgood (writing under the pseudonym John Godey), and is a remake of the original 1974 film adaptation, which was also remade in 1998 as a TV movie. Production of the current remake began in March 2008, and the film was released on June 12, 2009.[2]

John Godey's 1973 novelThe Taking of Pelham One Two Threeboasts a suspense situation so surefire that even the directorial bad habits of Tony Scott can't ruin this latest movie version. Four armed men seize a New York City subway train, isolate one car, and threaten to start killing passengers if a ransom isn't paid within the hour. The ransom was a million dollars in the book and also in Joseph Sargent's solid 1974 movie, in which Robert Shaw played the mercenary leading the hostage takers and Walter Matthau was the growling transit cop trying to outsmart him. In 2009, the title has gone digital--The Taking of Pelham 123--and inflation has jumped the asking price to $10 million. Where Shaw's menace was steely, John Travolta opts for manic, and shamelessly has a blast in the master villain role. His adversary, cagily underplayed by Denzel Washington, has been upgraded in civil-service rank but also demoted on suspicion of taking a bribe. This colors the ...
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Director: Tony Scott
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: June 12, 2009
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Brian Helgeland, John Godey
DVD Release Date: November 3rd 2009
Runtime: 106 Mins.
Studio: Columbia Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), Sony Pictures
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