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The Taking of Pelham 123 (7/10)
by Tony Medley
Runtime 105 minutes.
Not for Children.
Oh boy, another
remake. The first one in 1974 had
Walter Matthau contesting Robert Shaw. This one ups the ante and has
superstars Denzel Washington combating John Travolta.
Ryder (Travolta) and three brutish compatriots
take over the subway train and immediately contact the transit
authority. The person talking to them for the Transit Authority is
Walter Garber (an overweight
Washington), who is under
suspicion of receiving a bribe, so has been temporarily demoted. Ryder
tells Garber that he wants $10 million in cash in one hour or he will
start killing the passengers, one a minute.
The whole point of the
film is the contest of wills between Ryder and Garber. Fortunately,
director Tony Scott has held the running time down. While Scott includes
“Top Gun” (1986), and “Beverly Hills Cop II” (1987)among his credits, most of
the rest have been mediocre to dismal, the latter exemplified by
“Domino” (2005), where he wasted the talents of Keira Knightley in a
dismal effort to tell the story of bounty hunter Domino Harvey.
Here he takes a proven winner, based on the
novel by John Godey, and makes a moderately interesting thriller
highlighting the two superstars. Travolta gives a good performance, but
he’s got the easier task, since he’s playing a homicidal lunatic.
has a more difficult job of playing an ordinary person as the dispatcher
who finds himself in the middle of something nobody could anticipate.
While both Travolta and Washington give
interesting performances, I thought that two supporting actors, John
Turturo, who plays Lt. Vincent Camonetti, the professional negotiator
advising Garber, and James Gandolfini, who plays the New York Mayor,
equaled the two superstars. Another good performance is given by Michael
Rispoli, who plays Garber’s boss, John Johnson. Johnson firmly believes
in Garber’s guilt and clearly doesn’t like him.
The cinematography is also very good.
Typically in a modern action film there are some car crashes that are
impressively done. The film provides enough action in between all the
talk between Ryder and Garber that the pace is adequate.
This is a pretty run of the mill remake with
nothing extraordinary. As such, however, the climax lets the film down
because it ends with a thud, as well as buying into modern times’
definition of a “hero,” a definition with which I disagree, but that
will be the subject of another essay. Suffice it to say, I don’t think
it’s “heroic” for a man to risk sacrificing his life for strangers when
he has a family depending on him to provide them with love, succor, and
support. Oh well, compared with most of the rubbish that’s been put out
this year, this at least held my interest most of the time.