The new Tony Scott movie gives one helluva ride, but don't sit and analyze the plot for credibility during the closing credits, this is not that kind of movie. Four sleazy thugs, who could be spotted as bad guys by a blind man, hijack a Lexington Avenue subway and take passengers as hostages. A ransom-for-hostages negotiation begins via radio between the driver's compartment on the train and the central control center for the New York City subway system. The premise is hardly new territory, and, for those who have seen the Walter-Matthau-Robert-Shaw version of the John Godey novel, the film is even less original.
However, for audiences that want a night out at the movies with a rousing action flick, "The Taking of Pelham 123" will fill the bill nicely. The editing is often frenetic, and the camera moves even during dialog-heavy scenes. The chases are fast paced, the car crashes are over the top, and the bloody scenes are properly bloody. While all of this is enough for some mindless entertainment, four excellent performances enhance the proceedings and make the film seem better than it is. John Travolta pulls out the stops as Ryder, the head hijacker, and, in his full wacko persona, steals his every scene. As the man on the other end of the phone, bespectacled Denzel Washington, dressed down in everyman frumpy, is quiet and assured, although nothing quite suggests that the character of Walter Garber will or could rise to his climactic actions. James Gandolfini plays the mayor with a sly sense of fun, and John Turturro is a hard-to-gauge hostage negotiator. "Pelham" is a man's movie, and the women are relegated to small, peripheral roles as wives, conductors, and hostages. How refreshing the film might have been if Scott had cast a female in one of the four main roles.
However, whatever the movie's flaws, and there are many, "The Taking of Pelham 123" does what it sets out to do: entertain and engage the audience for two hours. Don't expect more, and you won't be disappointed, and, in a summer movie, "Pelham's" assets are exactly what most of us are looking for anyway.
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