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VINE VOICEon June 20, 2009
I'm a big fan of the original version of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. It was a snapshot in time of New York City in the seventies; a cynical, bloated, bureaucratic mess that was entirely unprepared for a terrorist attack. In fact, there were actually concerns that the movie would inspire real terrorists to take a subway train hostage. The original featured everything from undercover cops to hippies, a crisp military professional turned terrorist to the random accidents of people in stressful situations. It even invented the "color codenames" later used in Reservoir Dogs.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is catnip to movie directors in the same way that single stage sets are to theatrical directors - be it a subway or a stage with just two chairs, this is a film about two men facing off in a battle of wits. The majority of the movie takes place over an intercom between a terrorist and a dispatcher, with occasional cuts to the havoc their conversation causes throughout New York City. And if the terrorist represents the international Other that is a threat to our national security, the dispatcher represents the everyman of New York, our hardworking servicemen and women who lost their lives on September 11. With material like that, it's no wonder the film has been remade twice.

Director Tony Scott updates the film to modern day sensibilities. The villain, Ryder (John Travolta in full crazy mode), isn't a mercenary applying crisp military precision to the art of extortion; he's a (SPOILER ALERT) former Wall Street tycoon - slightly lower on the villain totem pole than industrialists who pollute the environment. The undercover cop moves into action immediately rather than later in the film, because of course New York's finest would respond quickly to a terrorist attack. And the dispatcher, Walter Garber (Denzel Washington, looking appropriately puffy and slouched) has a more complicated past and a bigger role.

Unfortunately, the film suffers as a result. In the original, military precision was entirely the point. The trains never ran on time, so challenging New York to meet a deadline was both a delicious irony and a sticking point with a former military officer who expects nothing less than perfection from his men and from the negotiators. Here, that point is muddled by a sort of "we're all into this together" blue collar ethic that Ryder projects into Garber. Their dialogue still crackles, but this simple change dilutes the force of the film.

The four-man team of bad guys is reduced to two speaking parts, with the other two generic thugs. The emphasis is clearly on Travolta and Washington, and it's refreshing to have a movie that's not afraid to spend some time letting actors just act. There's a lot of talking in this film and that's not a bad thing.

The movie struggles with the modern updates. A live wireless webcam feed gets broadcast to the Internet without government interference (yeah, right). Even though the laptop's battery dies, it's mysteriously back on a moment later. And the two teens on either side of the webcam come off as self-absorbed morons.

Because this is a big budget action film, the quiet subtlety of the original version is glossed over in favor of an MTA agent handling a hostage negotiation, wielding a gun, and ultimately engaging in a showdown with the bad guy. Since Ryder has no principles to speak of, the conclusion is particularly unsatisfying.

Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is a serviceable action film but not a particularly good update of the original. The seventies version was more of a drama with an ensemble cast that was comfortable playing second fiddle to the biggest character of all: New York City.
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on July 5, 2010
I loved this movie. Of course it is a remake but they did an excellent job of updating the plot to fit our more modern times. The character development was great, Travolta does a great bad guy. It moves at nice pace. If you enjoy a movie with suspense you will want to watch this one.
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on June 12, 2009
Though Scott's uniquely frenetic editing has been toned down from his previous films, his unmistakable style still frequents the action and accentuates the tension-filled premise. Denzel Washington's quick-witted and moderately corrupt dispatcher plays off of John Travolta's Wall Street savvy sociopath with plenty of clever exchanges, and the dark humor and suspense that find its way into the bloodshed culminates in an engaging game of cat and mouse. Not quite as slick as the original, and perhaps a little too conspicuous in its efforts at exuding cool, this latest take on the subway heist story still accomplishes entertainment at break-neck speed.

When a New York City subway train is hijacked, Rail Control Center dispatcher Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) becomes an unwitting negotiator for the ruthless criminals aboard. Led by the uncontainable Ryder (John Travolta), the hijackers demand ten million dollars in exchange for the seventeen hostages and offer only one hour to deliver the ransom. As minutes quickly count down, Garber must utilize his cunning and resourcefulness to buy time and catch the mercenary off guard as the situation goes from bad to catastrophic.

The unusual, highly stylized, frenzied editing is assuredly a now permanent technique for Tony Scott films - it's a signature method that he ceaselessly experiments with, frequently going overboard, and only occasionally able to harness. In Pelham it looks familiar but doesn't detract from the story, even if some moments of suspense are dulled by the blurred colors of slow-motion and missing frames. The remaining stunt sequences are exciting and tense, but hardly necessary. The car chases are never about catching someone, but rather beating the clock. It's action for action's sake, and while enjoyably destructive, it's entirely apparent.

Most audiences will not know that The Taking of Pelham 123 is based on a John Godey novel, or that it's been adapted into a movie twice before with the same name. While Scott's version stands on its own as a big-budget action movie, the purpose of specifically remaking this story is puzzling. Shouldn't the reasoning behind the revisiting of a popular plot be to improve upon some outstanding aspect? The use of the internet, cell phones, snipers, bloodshed, crude language and more give this new vision a sparklingly modernized feel, but when the movie draws to a close, it just can't compete with the 1974 version. Washington and Travolta have an intriguing chemistry, but even that can't outdo the cat-and-mouse mindgames between Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, who played their counterparts in the first feature adaptation. Perhaps a title change could have appropriately distanced Scott's take from being endlessly compared to an infinitely superior film.

- The Massie Twins
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VINE VOICEon November 2, 2009
I enjoyed watching this suspense/action film from one of my favorite directors - but when it was all done I actually liked the Blu better as a whole than the movie itself. It seems as though lovers and haters here already know the story of a hijacked subway train in NY, but either way I think everyone should give this BD a chance.

The picture clarity was outstanding throughout and very little drag gets noticed even with all of the dark sequences in the tunnels. The DTS rocks consistently and I am glad they went this way for being a train film, but Tony Scott is a big DTS guy anyway so I expected not to be disappointed. The special features are what make this package and include:

* 30 minute making-of that covers all aspects of production sans the additional documentaries. Plenty of background regarding Tony's vision - filled with plenty of unbleeped expletives from cast and crew alike (always prefer things to be uncensored). Love the story about the Albanian cousins who ended up being in the film, one right out of prison to fill his needed authenticity.
* 15 minute "Third Rail". Awesome informative piece about the aspects of working underground in the MTA property. Really good material about what it took for this film to be made like no other before it (usage and cooperation with NYC and the MTA).
* 6 minute Stylizing. Interesting plug for the hair styling crew behind this film (Lab Salon).
* 7 minute marketing Pelham. Like a long music video/trailer - would loved to have seen one with Man on Fire.
* Descriptive audio track in English - I loved this. Had not heard one before and it actually had customers mesmerized with how accurate and fast this narrator was regarding everything happening on screen - recommend giving it a try.
*CineChat and MovieIQ - your BD player has to be tuned up for handling these guys. The MovieIQ is more fun if you are into the trivia thing and have time.

Overall - a fun film on a solid BD. Enjoy.
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on September 4, 2009
Without the presence of the star Denzel Washington, Tony Scott's crime thriller "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" would have been a terrible disaster. Actually, the film is already a disaster in a sense, with its impossible story, numerous plot holes, gratuitous violence, showy camera works and John Travolta's hammy, almost campy acting, but the star power of Denzel Washington makes this potboiler barely watchable.

Armed men led by John Travolta's "Ryder" hijack a New York subway train and demand the Mayor (James Gandolfini) pay them 10 million dollars in cash within an hour. The man at a subway dispatch desk happens to be recently demoted Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), who is of course no hostage negotiator. The film's premise is interesting. Everything starts off good, and then it goes terribly wrong.

For flashy visuals and busy camera works (frenetic editing, 360-degree circling, etc.) keep annoying us, never letting us enjoy the actions. The busy camera follows the actions using subtitles and maps, but what we get is only dizziness. Some of the talented actors like John Turturro are sadly underused (and where is Luis Guzmán?), and most of all, as the story goes on (script by Brian Helgeland), the heist and hostage situation itself, which should be tense, start to look even silly. In the film's impossible climax the ordinary subway dispatcher has to act like John McClain.

I still remember the original 1974 film (based on John Godey's novel) "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" starring Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw. It is an effective thriller with a good story and a very clever ending. (You may forget the weak 1998 made-for-TV production) Joseph Sargent may not be the greatest film director, but he surely knows how to make a good use of the tight story and some nice ideas of the film that would later become the obvious inspiration of such films as "Die Hard" and "Reservoir Dogs."

It looks as if Tony Scott's latest version is trying to betray the expectations of those who have seen the 1974 version. One character sneezes, but he meets a different fate. Japan is mentioned, but in a totally different context. All these changes are amusing at first, but ultimately add up to nothing.

For all the dizzying visuals and loud noises, Tony Scott's "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3" is an underwhelming experience.
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on January 8, 2014
What could have turned out to be a terrible remake turned into a decent movie thanks to the incredible skills of Denzel Washington. You believe his acting and his role as a nobody guy and he takes you through the movie with the same emotions he feels. A decent film that I would recommend.
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on November 17, 2009
By and large, the types of films that Denzel Washington sticks his name on provide viewers with incredible acting, great character development, and a plot that sucks you in and makes you really care about what is going on. Unfortunately, "The Taking of Pelham 123" does absolutely none of those things.

Acting: The film focuses on Washington's "good guy" (a New York subway line coordinator) matching wits with John Travolta's "bad guy" (who hijacks a subway car in exchange for a large ransom). However, neither of them are able to act anywhere near their full potential. Whereas Denzel is at his best when his passions/convictions get the best of him, in this movie he is not once allowed to emote wildly. Instead, he turns in a ho-hum performance where he stays cool, calm, and in control the entire time. While that may have been the character that was written on the page, it didn't suit Washington at all and thus should have been cast differently. As for Travolta, he is too busy dropping F-bombs and maniacally raving to really be allowed any sort of acting maneuvering. His character is the same from the first time that we see him until the last.

Plot: Though hyped up to be an incredible, fast-paced film, the plot really is no different than anything that has been done a thousand times before. Crime, hostages, ransom, banter, rescue attempt. That's all it really boiled down to, and those same themes were covered in much more riveting fashion in mere minutes of, say, "The Siege" (another, much better, Washington film).

Character Development: This area was easily the biggest weakness of the film. Though it seems as if, in the beginning, the film is moving towards some interesting developments for both the Washington and Travolta characters, the "revelations" come and go in seconds and are never touched upon again. It's as if the writers had some good ideas in mind, but never really got everything ironed out.

Also odd was the strange dialogues throughout the film. At times, in the middle of what should have been a tense hostage crisis, Washington (or his co-workers/superiors) were often seen laughing or joking with each other in a fashion that didn't at all seem to fit the tense mood of the film. I kept expecting the tension to pick up as the minutes ticked by, but before I knew it the movie was over and it seemed as if nothing substantial had happened.

Thus, despite my liking of most films starring Denzel Washington, I would have to steer other viewers clear of this one. The plot is shallow, the acting isn't anywhere near fully realized, and the character development/dialogues are just plain stupid or non-existent. I have not seen the original version of "Pelham", but I'm willing to bet that this remake didn't live up to it.
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on January 31, 2016
The show is action packed and keeps you guessing, but that's a given considering it's a Denzel Washington movie. I had actually watched it a few years ago, but it's one of those movies that never gets old.
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on May 5, 2014
I have both versions of this movie and this being a later version is really very good. How can you go wrong with Denzel Washington AND John Trevolta. Great suspence and plenty of action. This followed the original storyline very well with a modern uptake. I would recommend this DVD for anyone that likes these actors. Well worth the price.
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on January 7, 2016
The plot is much like the original but lacks the intensity of it. Blu-ray helps but doesn't compensate for the mediocre direction an rush to the end. Poor direction and all about Denzel. Original had better cast with an ensemble approach, Gene Hackman nailed the part, Denzel Washington screwed it. Get the original and save your money on this one.
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