My rating of The Taking of Pelham 123: B (Good)
Cast: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, James Gandolfini
Directed by: Tony Scott
Studio: Columbia TriStar
The Taking of Pelham 123 has run out of steam in Indian theatres by now, not that it took of much really. But I knew I couldn’t miss this movie since it’s directed by one of my favourite directors Tony Scott (brother of another of my favourite movie directors, Ridley Scott), and stars Denzel Washington (on of my most favourite Hollywood actors) to boot. To jog your memory a bit, this Washington-Scott duo has delivered some smashing films (and some of my personal favourites) like Crimson Tide, Man on Fire, and Deja Vu – among others such as Domino and Enemy of the State. I couldn’t watch this movie earlier when it was released since I was not in Delhi.
The Taking of Pelham 123 is a remake of an old 1974 movie by the same name, based on a novel by the same name about a hostage situation on a New York subway train. John Travolta plays the role of Ryder, leader of a group of ‘terrorists’ (for the lack of a better word) who take people on a New York subway train hostage. They demand a ransom of $10 million to release the hostages; if they don’t get the money on time they threaten to kill the hostages (and actually do kill some of them). Denzel Washington plays the role of Walter Garber, a disgraced transportation authority official who has been demoted to the position of train dispatcher for taking a few weeks previously, and on whom the responsibility of negotiating with the terrorists falls upon. Yes, there’s an official police negotiator in Lieutenant Camonetti (played by John Turturro), but Ryder refuses to speak to anybody other than Garber. There’s a catch in that fact that the ransom demand is just a small part of a bigger plan on Ryder’s part to make money by investing in put options before the hostage situation happens. The train involved in the situation is subway train named Pelham 123, thus the name.
The movie revolves around how the hostage crisis unfolds over the period of slightly longer than an hour. Heavy bass soundtrack is littered all across the movie. After proving that he’s a son of a bitch in the movie Bolt, John Travolta fulfills the role of a dick superbly, albeit by needing to use the word ‘motherfucker’ way too often and wearing a biker tattoo to prove his Convicted Criminal ™ credentials. Denzel pulls off his usual police officer / hostage negotiator / army guy routine with elan. John Turturro does everyone a big favour by not showing the crack of his ass and standing beneath the testicles of an evil space robot. So where could the movie possibly go wrong?
Pelham 123‘s problem is that the whole plot feels a bit to conveniently arranged for a Hollywood movie. Where else other than a Hollywood movie can certified thugs walking into a subway train with ‘motherfucking machine guns to blow the fucking heads off’ – without any noticing? Where else can a cop car have a car collision, flip over, and have ‘three motherfucking somersaults’ before hitting concrete? The movie is good, but not great. The lead actors all do a satisfactory job, but somehow, they don’t seem to be into the movie with their heart and soul.
Meanwhile, those sleazeball Sony executives ensure that every few minutes of the movie we have to endure shots of a Sony product. Including John Travolta browsing the Web via WiFi on a Sony Vaio laptop in a goddamn subway train. I believe the reason for all goons choosing Sony Vaio laptops must be because they’ve opened a special 1-800-WE-LOOK-THE-OTHER-WAY hotline for orders from gangsters. Then there are Sony cars, Sony guns, Sony cellphones, Sony microphones, Sony helicopters, etc.
This is a great movie by usual Hollywood standards, but I’ve seen terrific stuff from Washington-Scott earlier – and this movie just doesn’t live up to those standards. Still, if you have an opportunity to watch it, don’t miss it.
(Denzel Washington is one of most favourite actors because he only does serious, intense roles and does them really well. The only non-serious role he ever played, I think, was in The Preacher’s Wife and that was pretty much a flop. So far I haven’t come across a Denzel Washington movie which I felt disappointed about after watching it.)