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Rated 2.97 stars
by 438 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Oh, the Humanity!
by Betty Jo Tucker

Filmmaker Tony Scott has many loyal fans, so itís no surprise our multiplex theater was packed last Friday for the first showing of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, his new take on the 1974 thriller co-starring Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw. And Iím fairly certain normal viewers enjoyed Scottís fast-paced remake. However, since Iím prone to migraine headaches which can be brought on by speeded-up camera work -- and this movie is full of it -- I canít help wondering if filming like this is necessary or used simply to annoy me. Not only does it cause my head to ache, it takes me out of the story, making whatís happening on screen appear completely unbelievable, so I have a hard time becoming involved in the film or with the characters.      

Anyway, while peeking up at the screen to catch scenes of actors simply talking -- or even yelling -- at each other, I managed to see Denzel Washington interacting with John Travolta. Washington plays a New York Subway System official who receives Travoltaís call after this psychotic villain and his cohorts have hijacked a New York subway car and are threatening to kill the passengers one by one if their demanded ransom of 10 million dollars and one cent (!) -- up from the measly one million in 1974 -- isnít delivered within an hour.

Although it doesnít sound like heís happy with Washington, Travolta develops a kind of rapport with him and claims he wonít talk with anyone else, so poor Denzel is stuck with the negotiations. Things get pretty tense, for itís hard to tell what will set Travolta off. The conversation between these two men covers mundane matters as well as religion, politics, job-related problems, and so forth. You know, just the sort of things you want to talk about with a psychopath. Interspersed between their bantering sessions, most audience members will probably stay awake through the shootings, speeding subway trains, car crashes, and keystone cop capers. However, to protect myself from a more painful headache, I dozed a bit during some of the movieís LOUD mayhem. Granted, that wasnít easy to do.         

Washington and Travolta are both gifted actors who bring a special intensity to their characters, whether portraying heroes or villains. They could have switched roles here and been equally effective.  In fact, I think Pelham might have been more exciting with Washington as the bad guy. Remember how great he was in Training Day and American Gangster? No more Mr. Nice Guy for Denzel, I thought after watching those two films.  Still, Travolta also does ďevilĒ with considerable pizzazz. Who can forget his brilliant work in Face/Off and Broken Arrow?

After viewing the original Pelham again on television last weekend, I admire the way Scott (Domino) and writer Brian Helgeland (A Knightís Tale) expanded the back stories of the characters played by Washington and Travolta. They are definitely more intriguing in this remake, and our curiosity is aroused concerning why the civil servant portrayed by Washington is under suspicion as well as about what motivated Travoltaís character to develop such a dangerous hijack plan. In fact, these concerns become more important than whether the plan will succeed and if so how, which I found to be the key interest points of the 1974 offering.

Sadly, despite its excellent performances -- including a very watchable turn by James Gandolfini of The Sopranos as the glad-handing Mayor of NYC -- The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 remake goes on my list of practically unwatchable movies, along with such box office successes as The Bourne Ultimatum and Quantum of Solace. Migraine sufferers, consider yourselves warned.         

(Released by Columbia Pictures and rated ďRĒ for violence and pervasive language.)

For more information about this movie, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.

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