Tuesday, June 16, 2009
BETTER THAN EXPECTED.
THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 (B-)
This film is a remake of the 1974 film The Taking of Pelham One Two Three starring Walter Matthau, which was adapted from the same titled book written by John Godey. I honestly believe that this project could have benefited from a better movie title instead of the same minus the difference between numbers and written out numbers.
I also believe that the trailers for this film were poorly made. Most were set to Jay-Z's song 99 Problems, and the trailer themselves did not make the movie seem very interesting in my opinion. Denzel pointing a gun at Travolta at the conclusion of the trailer doesn't leave too much up to the imagination of the ending...trailers can't show the ending of a movie!
I believe this film is a polarizing one that will have movie goers either loving or hating director Tony Scott's latest project.
As I previously mentioned this movie has some star power with the likes of Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, and James Gandolfini. Denzel plays a NY subway dispatcher named Walter Garber who is on duty coordinating the flow of the subway system when the train Pelham 123 is hi-jacked. Travolta plays the head haucho of the hi-jack with his typical villain role (see Broken Arrow, Face/Off, Swordfish) as an intelligent terrorist named Ryder. He takes 18 hostages from the train and demands 10 million dollars from the New York city Mayor (Gandolfini).
Ryder instructs Garber that hostages will be executed each minute past the one hour deadline. The story unfolds as Ryder demands the ransom be delivered by Garber himself. One of the most under appreciated parts by the filmmakers is when these two finally meet face to face, which I felt stole some of the thunder from the predictable ending.
The best part of this film was definitely Denzel Washington and his character Garber. Not only well acted to the Denzel standard, but written superbly with some actual depth displayed throughout the film. The script touches Garber's personality, his wife, his past misdeeds and their consequences, and his transformation to a hero type. The script set up Denzel's character to make the audience care who wins this battle of good vs evil.
Travolta's character Ryder was as psychotic as they come. This added a real element of uncertainty to what would happen next during the hostage scenes. Unlike the well written Denzel character, the writers did not take the time to make Ryder as well rounded as he could have been. His dialogue was especially weak. The ridiculous overuse of a F word that rhymes with truck takes away from this characters supposed intelligence. It also destroys the potential for a strong battle of words in this dialogue heavy flick. There was a great opportunity for powerful back and forth discussion during this standoff, but then viewers are left with retorts from Ryder like, "Lick my bunghole Motherf**ker."
Most of the film was decently written; but it got sluggish at times, and that should not happen in a film that is supposed to keep you on the edge of your seat like this one. I thought the lead up to the end and then the conclusion itself could have been written better. The story wastes far too much precious screen time with the sub plot of the police rushing the money through the streets of New York to beat the deadline set by Ryder. This is a feeble attempt to add action sequences to the film, but only accomplishes taking the focus off of the elements of the story viewers actually care about (Garber, Ryder, the hostages).
The supporting cast was written to compliment the two main characters, and the actors themselves delivered.
Tony Scott is typical Tony in his remake of Pelham. If you have seen any of his films, you know what I mean. Quick and blurry camera shots coupled with manically fast editing sequences display his unique style. He uses this same formula for all his most recent films, which is very different from some of his original work (Top Gun, Crimson Tide, The Fan). It works for parts of the movie like the beginning, but at others it would be nice to slow down from the blitzkrieg-like editing for the more emotional scenes. Scott creates fantastic character shots as the camera encircles Denzel or zooms in on the actors faces in the most fervent moments.
I also enjoyed his shots of the beautiful New York skyline.
Overall this movie surprised me in the regard I came out of it pleased with most of what I saw. I was sure from the terrible previews this film was going to be just like the Denzel/Tony Scott bomb called Deja Vu. Fans of Denzel or Scott will feel right at home during Pelham, whether you will actually enjoy it is yet to be decided. Even though Pelham 123 had terrible box office receipts in its first weekend, I would recommend this film to any movie goer out there that has time to waste in the theater and have already seen the movies at the top of the box office (The Hangover, UP). If you have an opportunity to see a matinee, give The Taking of Pelham 123 a shot. Otherwise wait for a DVD rental.
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