Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Taking Of Pelham 123

Year: 2009
Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, James Gandolfini, John Turturro, Luiz Guzman, Ramon Rodriguez

In the midst of alien robots, teenage wizards and animals from the ice age, there's still room for an old fashioned action movie. This year it's Tony Scott's turn to bring one to the fore, with two big Hollywood names leading the way.

The Taking Of Pelham 123 is actually a remake of a film with the same name produced in 1974. The film begins with a hijacking of a subway train in New York by four men. The leader, who calls himself Ryder (John Travolta) takes the train to a secluded part of the tunnel and waits.

Train dispatcher Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) notices this and calls the train. Ryder answers and demands 10 million dollars in exchange for the train passengers, and the money needs to arrive in one hour or he starts killing them. Despite not being a trained hostage negotiator, Garber continues to communicate with Ryder, and he does it so well Ryder chooses to deal with him throughout the waiting period.

Some tense moments then follow when police lieutenant Camonetti (John Turturro) enters the picture, and when the Mayor (James Gandolfini) himself gets into the action, things get interesting. However it is ultimately Garber that needs to see things to the end, because Ryder says so.

This is the fourth time Tony Scott is working with Denzel, and it's easy to see why. Denzel is the kind of guy whom you'll always root for. Unlike in Scott's last three collaborations with Denzel where the latter plays the iconic action hero, this time he plays the everyman caught in a difficult situation where he's forced to adapt and use his wits in order to save lives. And as always, Denzel pulls it off with great ease. He makes you believe in him and care about his character. Travolta on the other hand simply makes a slight adjustment to his usual bad guy routine to play Ryder, but the beauty of it is it never really gets old. Travolta's villain is usually charming, smart, violent and confident all the way. It's always fun to see that, at least for me. However, what makes this film work is the chemistry between the two leads. Their conversations over the radio during the film is the best part, as they get to know each other and bring each other to a point they've never been to.

Turturro and Gandolfini lend in credible support as the cop and the Mayor respectively. Gandolfini in particular gets some of the best lines and scenes, as his Mayor character isn't a well liked person in his own city, which leads to some very hilarious moments.

The movie suffers a little with the lack of some worthy action sequences and the existence of a few plotholes here and there, but that's OK because Scott manages to keep the suspense in check throughout. He still uses his quick cut, screen distorting filming style to great effect here, and thankfully not overdone like in Man On Fire.

Verdict: A well made thriller that stays on track from start to finish. (4/5)

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