Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

I have never seen the original, so I can't attest to any comparisons between that and this remake, though I've heard the original sets the bar pretty high. This one, helmed by the always too slick for his own good, Tony Scott, is high on style but as usual, low on plot. He tries to throw a lot of unnecessary action into the movie, pushing it to around two hours- when it doesn't need to be a minute over an hour and a half.

John Travolta stars as Ryder, a gunman who hijacks a subway train and holds it ransom. Denzel Washington plays the Walter Garber, the train dispatcher on the other end of the radio- the only one whom Ryder will negotiate with- perhaps because of his own shady past. The two of them have great chemistry, as great acting pairs always do. Even though they're almost never on screen together, they really feed off of each other. Travolta does what he does best- act as a crazy but charming villain, and Washington does what he does best- act as an imperfect and conflicted hero.

The problem arises when Scott tries to artificially action and suspense where it's not needed. This is exemplified by the "car chase" featured prominently in the trailer. These bloated scenes just take away from the the best thing the movie has to offer- two stellar actors let loose to do what they do best.

The movie doesn't have anything new to offer. At its best, Pelham features some sparkling moments between Washington and Travolta. Through most of it, however, it's just another formulaic heist movie. From the time warping opening credits to the action packed final showdown, this movie is pure Tony Scott. Unfortunately he doesn't push the style as far as movies like Domino, or go as unique as Enemy of the State. It's not his best, but it's also not his worst.


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