This summer, there will be quite a few blockbusters promising to give you ample entertainment for your ten dollars (not counting popcorn), but The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 actually delivers on that promise.
If you ride the subway on a regular basis, as I do, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 will more than unnerve you. Set primarily in a subway train underneath midtown Manhattan and in an MTA office, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is a thriller in the truest sense of the word, pitting an unwitting hero against a wounded villain. In any good story, the hero and the villain aren’t that far apart in nature. John Travolta’s character, “Ryder,” and Denzel Washington’s “Walter Garber” both have questionable pasts, to say the least, when their paths cross for the first time.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 doesn’t have a deep philosophical message, but it does use global economics, the inner workings of city government and many true-to-life situations to weave its story together. The mayor of New York is a billion dollar tycoon (Mayor Bloomberg?) who really isn’t a true New Yorker; the MTA employees are embroiled in various financial improprieties; the complex nature of Wall Street is used as a back drop; and many other very real scenarios are used throughout this film.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 revolves around two characters, Denzel Washington’s Garber and John Travolta’s Ryder. Ryder hijacks a subway train with a team of thugs and a former MTA employee. They take certain passengers hostage, hoping that the ensuing chaos will reap financial rewards. Garber is a long-time MTA employee with a soiled history who is brought far out of his element in trying to negotiate a hostage situation. The supporting cast of John Turturro, James Gandolfini, Luis Guzman and Michael Rispoli add flavor to certain scenes and highlight the plot’s tension.
Most surprising in this film is the performance by John Travolta. By no means will he be nominated for an Academy Award, but his portrayal of a sinister former financier is highly entertaining and devoid of his usual nice guy charm. John Travolta plays the villain well and elicits just enough pity from the audience to make the character interesting. Denzel Washington does a solid job of portraying an MTA employee worthy of our sympathy. After being degraded for a possible crime, he spends his days browbeaten by his new supervisor who has already convicted him. Denzel Washington uses his skill to portray a proud man left hanging by the institution he's dedicated decades of his life to, something Ryder exploits throughout the film.
Tony Scott, director of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, put together a tight film that doesn’t drag on, doesn’t get sappy and allows the action to speak for itself. He injects some intense crashes, decent weapons play and he uses the natural claustrophobic setting of the subway to set a good tone for The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. There are no over-the-top scenes where the bad guy breaks down or becomes a lunatic, and while the audience understands the reasoning behind the hero’s plight and the villain’s intentions, they aren’t confused as to who should win.
Overall, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is a film that knows exactly what it is, an exciting thriller that shouldn’t have political messages or economic preaching attached to it.
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3
Rated R. Runtime 121 min. Theatrical release 6/12/2009.
PR.com Rating: B+