Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. B

It seems as if fans of the original dislike the remake of 'The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3,' while those who aren't admirers of the Walter Mattau-Robert Shaw semi-classic prefer this flashy retelling. Me, I haven't ever seen the 1974 version, so I can't make a comparison. What I can say is that this an exuberant, exciting, sleek thriller and one of the few Tony Scott films that I've liked. Though I think the movie benefits from modern technology, the real reason it works is because of the story. It's a simple one, which allows room for some serious psychological conversation between the characters. And that's what I liked about the film. It's advertised as a action movie, but the action doesn't really come until the end. The first 80 minutes or so are spent trying to convince an amoral hijacker named Ryder (John Travolta) to release a group of hostages on a subway car. He wants 10 mil in exchange for them. The good guys are communicating with Ryder by phone. He's not your standard terrorist. He might be a tad crazy, but he also has some high intelligence and, refreshingly, a sense of humor. Ryder is only interested in speaking with MTA employee Walter Garber, played by Denzel Washington. They engage in some very interesting talk, which deals with Garber's personal life almost as much as the situation on the subway. The problem with this film, which we can only really expect from a Tony Scott picture, is the stupid final twenty minutes in which Garber goes to the subway and tries to stop Ryder. This was supposed add to the excitement, but if Scott was smarter he would know that the movie had built plenty of excitement and suspense without any action scenes. If he really wanted to make this his own, he'd have avoided action for intelligence. Still, the movie is a grand piece of entertainment, and, at least for the first 80 minutes, a little more than that.

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