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The Taking Of Pelham 123 (2010)

Review: written March 2010

Passable action movie that doesn't quite stay on track

The Taking Of Pelham 123 (2010)

Tony Scott returns once more to the action movie, and does the sort of slick production job we have come to expect from him, with trusty stalwart Denzel Washington along for the ride. Though one has to say, that this time, he's not really on top form - we are well short of `Man on Fire' territory here.

This remake of the 70's classic has the same circumstances unfolding but with a slightly different slant - taking away much of the cold and calculating side to the villain, and imbuing the Washington character with some backstory. (He's under investigation, it turns out). So, we still have a subway train hijacked, this time by a tattooed and heckling Travolta. Washington plays the subway employee who happens to be the dispatcher when it all goes down, and his character works best while cooped up with only a microphone to liaise with the hijacker. Sadly he fails to convince as readily when he is out on the street and in the subway to face off directly with Travolta's character. John Turturro and James Gandolfini round out the supporting cast.

The Taking Of Pelham 123 (2010)

The action, such as it is, is adequate enough, but never quite wrings tension in the way you feel it ought to. In particular, one extended runaway train sequence never quite develops a sense of genuine threat , and the resolution to the scene never has the sense of relief / release it seems was intended. The character development feels particularly broad stroked, lacking the sort of minor detail that convinces us enough to invest our emotions in the movie. Washington's recent history feels shoehorned in rather than coming organically from the story, and when he starts playing the reluctant action hero, we are left chuckling at how unlikely it is, rather than feeling he is truly caught up in the drama. As for Travolta, one is inclined to think he should just stop playing bad guys.. his character feels like an over the top panto villain, with a few lines of expositionary dialogue squeezed in to the script in an attempt to give him depth. It doesn't work. And then finally, in stark contrast to the original, the ending is all too predictable.

So while the end result is a passable action movie with some genuine star-power, the bottom line is that those yearning for the intelligence and sticky tense atmosphere of the original will be disappointed, as will those expecting a bangs and bullets modern `Tony Scott' action movie. It's a movie which is less than the sum of its parts - but the parts are still good enough to come through the muddle worth a couple of hours of your time, thanks in large part to a few dry comedic moments thrown in... as well as a few unintentional laughs along the way.

The Taking Of Pelham 123 (2010)

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