Published on June 12th, 2009 | by simeon0
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
If you have ever been in the New York City subway “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” is going to seem very familiar. Director Tony Scott, of “Man on Fire” and “Crimson Tide” fame, shot Pelham within the depths of the actual subway system. Any film using this location has a lot to live up to and Pelham has the additional challenge of being a remake of the 1974 cinema classic.
The story revolves around civil servant, Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), who just happens to be finishing his shift at the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) when subway car Pelham 123 is hijacked by a four-man gang lead by Ryder (John Travolta).
Ryder starts a strict hour-long count down for delivery of a hefty ransom, maintaining that every minute past the deadline he will kill a one of the passengers. Further aggravating the situation Ryder refuses to communicate with anyone besides the unlucky Garber.
The plot unfolds reveling that Garber and Ryder are both more complicated than originally suspected thereby breaking down their simple good versus evil distinctions. Add in a few chase scenes and the occasional attempt at hostage drama and you have the makings of this so-so New York City action film.
The eclectic cast features Luis Guzmán as Phil Ramos, the tech savvy ex-con, James Gandolfini as the annoyed lame duck Mayor, and John Turturro as the helpless hostage negotiator.
Both characterization and technology are bluntly forced into the “modernized” film, from Ryder’s bad guy neck tattoo to the overt focus on a hostage’s webcam. The limited attempts to give the numerous hostages personalities also fails miserably, leaving the audience completely disinterested in their fate.
One of Pelham’s artistic highlights is the futuristic homage to the original film’s subway system map. Additionally, the laugh lines are strong as is the creative and sometimes nauseating filming of the city. But if you loved the 1970’s film you will miss the use of color code names, dated lingo, and overall dramatic tension.
Pelham is worth seeing, if only for the strong one-liners, the expressive view of America’s favorite city, and one marvelous car crash, but be sure to bring the Dramamine and an overall lack of expectations.