MOVIE: The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)

pelhamIt’s probably been five years or more since I saw the original Taking of Pelham 123, which I rented back when I was going through a massive Walter Matthau phase.  And now that I’ve seen this film, the recent remake starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta, I’m eager to see the original again because I can’t remember what the original bad guy’s motives were, and I have a feeling they weren’t the same as they were in this version (this version’s motives being somewhat timely).

I figured this would be an entertaining, but not brilliant, movie, and I was right.  It’s not flawless, but it’s definitely a lot of fun to watch, especially if you’re a Denzel or/and Travolta fan, which I obviously am (hubba hubba x 2).  The story opens on a regular day in New York City’s MTA offices, with Washington playing Walter Garber, a former bigwig in the MTA who has recently been demoted to dispatcher following a scandal involving a bribe.  Unfortunately for Walter, he’s on duty the day a group of recent parolees, led by a man named Ryder (Travolta), hijack the Pelham 123 train.

It quickly becomes clear to Walter that the group knows a lot about the MTA subway system.  They stop the train in exactly the most advantageous spot in one of the tunnels, and quickly release most of the cars and passengers to make it easier for them to handle the set of hostages, which they then announce they are holding for $10 million in ransom.  But as the day goes on, it also becomes increasingly clear that Ryder has ulterior motives — that the ransom may not be his end game.  Can Walter, the mayor (played by James Gandolfini), or the lieutenant in charge of the hostage negotiation team (played by John Turturro) figure out what’s really going on before Ryder kills the hostages and/or absconds with the $10 million?

You can probably guess the answer to that question.  Go ahead, guess.  Yep, you’re right!

As I said, this movie isn’t perfect.  For one thing, I had the “ulterior motive” thing figured out way earlier than I should have and it was because of some heavy-handed hint dropping that could have been a lot more subtle.  Despite that, though, I found the whole ulterior motive thing pretty clever, all things considered, and it was fun waiting to find out if my theory about it was going to be proven right.

I also thought Denzel was great in this — I completely believed his character and, what’s more, I was really rooting for him as well.  Less convincing was Travolta, but only because I still think of him as more snuggly than bad-ass, even if the make-up department does kick down with a sinister goatee and neck tatt.

Overall, though, this is a pretty entertaining flick with some good acting, authentic suspense, and a fairly satisfying, if unbelievable, ending.  Definitely recommended to anybody looking for a good thriller.  And hey, gentlemen in the audience, they even somehow managed to throw in a couple of spectacular car wrecks for you, even though 95% of this movie takes place in an office and a tunnel.  Now THAT’S movie-making magic, my friends.

Recommended!

[Netflix me | Buy me]

Genre:  Thriller
Cast:  Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Michael Rispoli, James Gandolfini

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3 Responses to “MOVIE: The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)”

  1. Trip Says:

    Car wrecks? Neck tats? How can I resist? The only thing that’s missing is Megan Fox in a flimsy cocktail dress diving sideways in slo-mo away from an exploding fireball with blazing guns in each hand and the lead screaming “Nooooooo….!”

    Still – Travolta still can’t touch Robert Shaw for sinister villainy. There’s no way he could pull off a crusty sailor battling wits with a dead-eyed killer shark and telling tales of the doomed crew of the USS Indianapolis either.

    No way.

  2. megwood Says:

    Could not agree more in regards to Robert Shaw, who is the king of silent menace in my book.

    Your Megan Fox comment just made me laugh out loud in an inappropriate location. Curses on you!

  3. Liz Says:

    As usual, I don’t know what you guys are talking about, but I ROUTINELY laugh out loud in inappropriate places! It’s getting to be my “signature!” My advice to you all is to embrace your inner inappropriateness! After all, why do you think this blog is so much fun?! 🙂

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