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Walter Garber (Washington) is a New York City subway dispatcher whose ordinary day is thrown into chaos by an audacious crime: the hijacking of a subway train. Ryder (Travolta), the criminal mastermind behind the hijacking and leader of a highly-armed gang of four, threatens to execute the train’s passengers unless a large ransom is paid within one hour. As the tension mounts beneath his feet, Garber employs his vast knowledge of the subway system in a battle to outwit Ryder and save the hostages. But there’s one riddle Garber can't solve: even if the thieves get the money, how can they possibly escape?
Blu-ray and DVD Special Features Include:
• Commentary featuring Director Tony Scott, Writer Brian Helgeland, and Producer Todd Black
• “No Time to Lose: The Making of Pelham 1 2 3”
• “The Third Rail – The NYC Subway System”
• “Marketing Pelham”
• “From the Top Down: Stylizing Character”
DVD Release date: 11th January 2010
DVD RRP: £19.99
Blu-Ray RRP: £24.99
Below is my review of the film:
In contrast to Joseph Sargent’s 1974 original, Tony Scott’s THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 is loud, fast, and action packed from start to finish. Right from the opening credits which roll to Jay-Zs ’99 Problems’, we know we are in for a hell of a ride. From the outset Scott treats us to his usual style of hyperactive, restless cinematography, cutting from close ups of John Travolta [Ryder] with his tattooed neck and handlebar moustache, to sped up and slowed down shots of New York from every angle imaginable, suddenly grinding almost to a halt when we see Denzel Washington [Walter Garber] for the first time, in his boring office setting where he works as a disgraced dispatcher accused of taking bribes.
Only two minutes in, and I already knew I was in for a treat.
I know a lot of people have said this is a pointless remake, of what is considered to be a classic cult movie, but to me this was a remake dying to happen. Joseph Sargent’s version, no doubt a brilliant film at the time, now plays very dated. It has good performances from Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, but this version lacks excitement and character.
Tony Scott’s 2009 version however, is full of character! John Travolta is brilliant as the uncompromising, unhinged, maniacal lunatic, Ryder, calm one minute, insane the next. Prone to bouts if severe profanity, he plays the character with humour and yet doesn’t lose that sinister edginess [which we also saw him display in Broken Arrow and Face-Off]. In contrast Denzel plays an average family man, Garber, who is fighting corruption charges. Denzel is believable as this ‘average Joe’ character, and the banter between these two characters is entertaining from beginning to end.
There is no waiting around for the story to kick in; within minutes Ryder and his men have taken control of the subway train and its eighteen passengers. If Garber does not get $10 million to him within one hour, a hostage will be killed for every minute thereafter. We know he’s serious when he shoots someone because the hostage negotiator refuses to let him speak with Garber. From this point Scott makes us well aware of that ticking clock.
The only problem with this The Taking of Pelham 123 is the hostages themselves, they are in a claustrophobic subway carriage amongst mad men with machine guns, who have killed someone right in front of them, and yet they stay incredibly calm. They are almost cardboard cut-outs in a film that is otherwise very well acted. It doesn’t matter too much though, as Scott’s main focus is the two leads, and they are more than capable of carrying the film. Strangely, I ended up caring about how it ended for both characters in equal measure.
The shots of the police cars and bikes whipping through New York traffic are amazing. Here Scott abandons his schizophrenic, dizzying, camera angles and goes for clean wide shots. The sound of the speeding traffic is deafening and one more reason to see this in the cinema where you’ll get the full impact.
This is no high brow film, nor does it pretend to be, it is a high energy, high entertainment, blockbuster and if that’s the kind of film you’re into, you won’t be disappointed.
THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 (2009). Director: Tony Scott, Writer: Brian Helgeland, John Godey. Cast: John Travolta, Denzel Washington, James Gandolfini.
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