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The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

A movie directed by Tony Scott

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Beyond Embarrassing

  • Jul 22, 2011
  • by
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 Man on Fire adaptations and Deja Vu; the nauseating idiocy of Domino. In his every project, Scott obstinately retains all of his hackneyed devices - color filters galore, choppy editing, smoky interiors and obnoxious close-ups, to which slow motion is supposed to impart some dramatic weight. At least big brother Ridley helmed three great genre pictures before churning out over twenty trendy, execrable features over the course of the past quarter-century. Both siblings' careers have proven two undeniable facts: accessible film making is lucrative, regardless of how awful it is, and contemporary audiences are comprised almost entirely of imbeciles.

Why a third adaptation of Morton Freedgood's popular novel? From any sensible perspective, the modest success of Joseph Sargent's fun, perfectly acted first take on this material and the resounding failure of the risible TV movie would confirm that this is a story exhausted of commercial potential, one that can be spared the excruciating treatment of a sanitized, simplified, wholly diminished remake. However, as most Hollywood executives possess nothing resembling sense, even those few among them who remember Sargent's film are bound to feel that anything to ever turn any kind of profit needs - pardon, deserves a remake. To this end, they contact a popular hack like Scott, who agrees to it because when the Christ did he ever turn down a stupid project or yield an original thought?

Put simply, Scott has descended into inadvertent self-parody. Scarcely a single shot in this movie isn't hindered by a sloppy zoom or irritating special effect. Like Michael Bay's schlock, it's so clumsily, abruptly edited that the proceedings haven't a whit of focus, thus defusing any potential tension or excitation. Every computer interface, from Rail Control Center monitors to laptops, sound silly bleeps and bloops as though this was shot in 1982. I swear to god, Scott's onscreen credit flies down a tunnel after the hijacked train.

That John Travolta's grating hambone excuse for acting was accepted by Scott and the producers of this film only confirms that quality control in major American motion pictures is more or less nonexistent, at least where overrated veteran non-talents are concerned. Disguised as a leather-clad Village Person, Travolta's ridiculous handlebar mustache doesn't make him appear any less bloated, nor his trashy neck tattoo at all tough. For all his loudness, he's merely irritating and does little more than rant petulantly and predictably execute a couple of hostages. In a way, this is fortunate - his Ryder couldn't possibly be mistaken for Robert Shaw's frostily menacing Mr. Blue in Sargent's film.
Although Denzel Washington makes the best of a watered-down character and enormous amounts of staggeringly dumb dialogue, his mundane portrayal of Transit Authority employee Garber only serves to remind viewers in the know how much more personable Walter Matthau was in this role. Admittedly, Washington is credible in a decidedly unflattering function, but he hasn't a fraction of Matthau's wit or charm.
Despite being well-cast as the discredited former motorman that Martin Balsam cleverly played with sneezes and sullen kvetching, Luis Guzmán isn't given an opportunity to do much other than stand around and mumble until he's shot to death. John Turturro is also wasted as an NYPD hostage negotiator who merely counsels Washington and sits around with a pensive expression. Meanwhile, intolerable Michael Rispoli churns through the motions as the same officious authority figure that he's played at least a half-dozen times too often. I wouldn't care if James Gandolfini vanished from the face of the planet tomorrow, but his mayoral presence is serviceable, as is that of John Benjamin Hickey as his deputy - though they completely lack the comic vigor that Lee Wallace and Tony Curtis generated in the same roles. Victor Gojcaj and Robert Vataj look equally tough and mindless as the hijacker muscle, conveying none of Hector Elizondo's amusing repugnance or Earl Hindman's quiet aplomb.
One of the few cringe-worthy defects of Sargent's adaptation was its annoying hostages, who are infinitely more bromidic here. One of them chats with his shrill, dumpy girlfriend via webcam while another sulks meaningfully before taking a pointless stand and promptly dying.

In all fairness to even the worst of this flick's players, its script by David Koepp and Brian Helgeland is as moronic as it could possibly be. The following excerpted dialogue will demonstrate this point far better than any critical analysis:

Garber: What's her name?
Ryder: Lavitca, she was Lithuanian...she was an ass-model.
Garber: She asked you what?
Ryder: You heard of hand-models, right? Advertisements?
Garber: Right.
Ryder: She was an ass-model...she did jeans and, uh, you know, magazines and shit. Anyway, it was fashion week in New York and uh...I took her to Iceland.
Garber: Lavitca, Lithuanian, ass-model, Iceland, you took her to the ice...
Ryder: So, for five-hundred bucks they'll take you on a dog-sled ride on a glacier.
Garber: Dog-sled?
Ryder: Yeah...and you know that whole saying that if you're not the lead dog, the view never changes?
Garber: Right, otherwise you're always looking at the asshole of the dog in front of you.
Ryder: That'll be funny in a minute when I get to that part.
Garber: It's funny now.
Ryder: And it's eight in the morning, we haven't been to bed yet...and we're tooling across this glacier and I got this hangover that's creeping up the back of my neck...and guess what I'm looking at?
Garber: You're obviously you're staring at...the ass of the dog in front of you.
Ryder: You got it! So this dog...out of nowhere just lifts his hind-legs up and puts them in the, you know the harness there...and just takes a shit, while he's running on his front paws. So he's dumping and running, all at the same time...now that's multi-fucking-tasking if you ask me.
Garber: Get outta here, did it hit you?
Ryder: Shit always hits you, man.
Ryder: I didn't know it at the time, but it was profound.
Garber: Profound?
Ryder: Yeah.
Garber: Why? Uh, you lost me.
Ryder: Well, you know uh...when I went to prison later on, what you called. Uh, I had trouble going to the toilet...you know, a privacy thing. And I...couldn't take a shit. I was scared shitless...literally. So, you know what I thought of?
Garber: You thought of the dog.
Ryder: That's right...I thought of that dog. If it could do what it needed to do...so could I. It saved my fucking life.
Garber: Wow, that is profound.

Ryder: Do you know what I'm looking at? Do you know what I'm looking at?
Garber: No, I do not.
Ryder: Ok, well first there's my gun...and at the end of my gun, what's your name man?
George: George, everyone calls me Geo.
Ryder: George, his friends call him Geo. He's got this kinda eighties skateboard thing going on...he makes it work, but it's not gonna look too good in his casket.

Ryder: (describing Garber's voice) He sounds sexy. He would've been my bitch in prison.

Gentle reader, should you assume that these quotes were the product of my modest imagination, feel free to read them where I found them. If you justifiably speculate that this quoted text, removed from its context and medium, are any less absurd in their source, let me assure you: this and so much more are far more spectacularly idiotic onscreen. This Pelham of the abhorrent year of two thousand and nine was so badly written, shot and cut by and for overgrown, asinine little boys. All the humor, nuance and excitement of both the novel and the first film have been replaced by a multitude of absurd car and motorcycle crashes, copious airs and a laptop hidden under a seat in the hijacked train, the webcam of which circuitously transmits a live feed to broadcast television. Seriously, the laptop is under a seat and remains undetected by not one but two gun-toting hijackers. Although the hostage ransom is increased to $10 million from '74's $1M, Ryder actually hijacks the train to trigger a Dow Jones plunge and profit from his surging gold investment. I'm not joking. All of this actually happens in the course of the movie.

While the '74 feature was scored by David Shire's catchy, ingenious dodecaphonic music, Harry Gregson-Williams' efforts here scarcely qualify as a score. Much of it consists of goofy synth cues that sound like the famous title sound effect from A Current Affair.

For those who feel cheated by the many spoilers in this review, don't worry: I haven't revealed anything that isn't indicated well in advance through clumsy foreshadowing. Then again, if you saw a theatrical trailer for this and thought that it looked like a good idea, you don't deserve a fair warning in the first place.

Fools and their money, after all...these days, that axiom denotes both the audience and the studio.

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July 22, 2011
OH GOD! DX This movie is horrendous, lol! The Retarded Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 :P That excerpt is just unwaveringly douche - y, heehee! ^-^ Especially the last part with "GEO". BARF! LOLOLOL! ^-^ I LOVE your reviewsie! :D Heehee! ^-^ Muu ^-^ ♥ Annusya ♥
July 22, 2011
Oh Lord, I forgot Geo. Cristo, what an asinine character. Thanks, sweet snuudlebug! MOAR LIEK THE TAKING OF BULLSHIT ONE TWO PLOP! LOLOLOL ROFL LOL!!!!!!!!!!!11!!!!!!!ONEONEONE!!!!

*smooches all over*
July 22, 2011
HEEHEE! :D One two PLOP! XD You're so cuuuuuuuuuuuuuute, heehee! ^-^ Muu! ^-^ *more smuuchies all oversie for youuu*! ^-^ ♥ Annusya ♥
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 . 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 …
review by . December 01, 2009
A Film with Great Pieces of Acting, but in the End, Nothing Special...
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 …
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
Robert Buchanan ()
Ranked #30
I'm a bibliophile, ailurophile, inveterate aggregator, dedicated middlebrow and anastrophizing syntax addict. My personality type is that of superlative INTJ.
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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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