QUICKary Review: Thanks to solid performances from Denzel Washington and John Travolta, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is engaging and interesting…even if there isn’t much to it.
Had The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 starred anyone other than Denzel Washington and John Travolta, this reboot of the 1974 original would be a movie no one cares about.
A New York City train dispatcher accused of taking bribes, Walter Garber (Washington) is forced into a tough situation when a gang led by Ryder (Travolta) takes over a subway car with 18 passengers. Walter and Ryder communicate back and forth as Ryder demands $10 million within an hour, or he’ll start killing hostages one-by-one. Soon enough the entire system is involved: Camonetti (John Turturro), a hostage negotiator tries to take over for Walter, but it causes more problems. The Mayor (James Gandolfini) gets involved too as the police work frantically to deliver the money before the deadline.
All the while the premise is simple; it comes down to the relationship between Walter and Ryder, a convincing and compelling battle of wits. Washington steps out of his normal role in action movies as the guy kicking butt and taking names. This time around he’s playing an older, heavier man with his own problems. In Pelham 1 2 3 he’s just a normal person thrown into an abnormal situation. Unsure of how to handle the situation, Walter goes with the flow as he realizes more and more that he has a chance to be a hero.
With his mustache and neck tattoo alone, Travolta convinces us that Ryder is a badass. His acting is slighty over the top, but that’s what makes Ryder interesting and amusing as he plays head games with Walter (and vice versa). The dialogue is slick with its mix of suspense and humor, while ultimately Ryder makes it clear that he’s serious about his goals.
With Washington and Travolta doing all the heavy lifting, there was no need for director Tony Scott to incorporate blurs and other stylish edits to create a fast-paced environment. Featured prominently in the first few minutes of the movie, it becomes distracting to the point where it’s almost unbearable. At other times in the it’s completely unnecessary. Unfortunately, neither Travolta nor Washington’s acting could save the ending, which was a disappointment. A story that was on the right track, Pelham 1 2 3 derails itself during the final 30 minutes and delivers an anticlimactic ending; it’s not even remotely believable.
Even with it’s crappy ending, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is still a solid movie that relies on the experience Washington and Travolta bring to the big screen. They bother delivered, and thankfully Scott put their talent to good use by just sitting back and letting their chemistry command the screen.