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The Taking of Pelham 123 – Rating: C +

Submitted by on June 16, 2009 – 7:37 AMNo Comment
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You hear the names Denzel Washington and John Travolta—you automatically think onscreen greats. You hear they’re working on a film together and your heart begins to pump with anticipation. Then you finally hear they’re starring in a remake to the 1970’s classic Taking of Pelham 123, and then you don’t know what to think. Director Ridley Scott (Domino and Déjà Vu) takes on the challenge of raising the fare with this up-to-date rendition, leaving us to pay a minor increase for the performances of two Academy Award winners.

We are introduced to Mr. Walter Garber (Washington)—a New York City MTA worker who’s been demoted following allegations of impudence. Now assigned to dispatcher duties, this blue-collar’s job position takes a significant turn. Next we are introduced to our antagonist—the pun-filled and diabolical Ryder (Travolta)—a criminal far from two-bit, who holds a southbound 6-train hostage for the ransom of $10 million dollars.

Ryder’s demands are simple; if his money doesn’t arrive within the time span of an hour, civilians will be killed by the minute. Garber soon finds himself playing negotiator with a mad man. Though Ryder takes a liking to this transit worker’s Average Joe soliloquies and pleas, it doesn’t stop him from taking out civilians and moving forward with his mission.

As the countdown begins to descend, lives are taken and blood begins to spill on Garber’s innocent hands. With the mayor (James Galdolfini) of New York City stressing the importance of his image and an experienced hostage negotiator (John Tuturro) thrown out pelham-1-2-3-posterof the equation, crunch time is now in session, leaving this MTA simpleton to take matters into his own hands, playing along to the rules of a cat and mouse game he has no business partaking in.

Nonstop thrills and suspense best describe this rehash. John Travolta is in true villain form and does justice to the original role that Robert Shaw made famous. Washington continues to add-on to his overdrawn list of solid performances, but this one in particular is one of his more standout jobs. The chemistry between both actors is spot-on and makes for great entertainment going into the final stretch of the film.

Director Tony Scott doesn’t stray away from his A.D.D. camera shots and tedious freeze frames, which we’ve continuously seen throughout his past five films. He’s visually one step away from heading into the same lane as Joel Schumacher. Fortunately for him, he manages to keep the focus on Travolta and Washington long enough that the audience becomes hypnotically attached to both characters. Great actors are just born with that ability.MGDL_lnnr_spritzS

Pelham is a modern-day improvement, but it lacks the racist and sexist tokens, as well as the urban and grungy Gotham presence of the original. Most suspense and action thrillers have become clichéd and passé, but Scott barely manages to reach a state of equilibrium with his latest film; mainly impart to the contributions of two great actors.

Beer Pairing: The recommendation here is MGD (Miller Genuine Draft) 64. Drink an old school beer with a new school twist.