Film Review - The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (the John Travolta/Denzel Washington Subway Movie)

Fate derails for a NYC transit worker Walter Garber when a former inmate hijacks subway train Pelham 1 2 3, taking hostages, demanding money and to only be in communication with Garber. A remake, Tony Scott’s “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” is action packed, and passionate. Both the native New York worker – Garber (Denzel Washington) to the “feeling wronged” ex inmate – Ryder (John Travolta) are fully energized throughout the movie. The cast also includes character actor Luis Guzmán, John Turturro (also in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” out now), James Gandolfini as NYC’s mayor, Alex Kaluzhsky (keep your eyes out for this guy – he also has one of my favorite lines in the movie), and Gbenga Akinnagbe (“The Wire”). “Pelham” isn’t the greatest action movie ever made, but it’s nice to see these veteran actors, Washington and Travolta, do this kind of flick together.
- Denzel Washington – Washington’s last two films, The Great Debaters and American Gangsters, had characters unlike the Walter Garber of “Pelham.” From being a dangerous crime boss to a larger than life, inspiring teacher – Washington’s “Garber” is more of an everyday man – but not perfect, which is what I really like about the character. And only Denzel, only he could give it the sincerity needed to not come off hammy. Would we expect anything else from the classy actor?

- John Travolta – I think the last time we saw Travolta this angry was in “Face/Off” (or was that Nicholas Cage?). Sporting some crazy tattoos, Travolta plays Ryder – the wisecracking, pissed off subway hijacker – to a tee. Glad to see Travolta gracing the movie screen again (and this time, not in a dress).

- The Pacing – It’s really well timed. It’s not too long or too short, the story progresses steadily and doesn’t get hung up in details. It gets to the point, and sticks to the point, and I like that in a film!

- It’s An Action Movie Too – I like "Pelham" because it’s not all talk, it’s not all negotiations with the criminal to let the hostages go, it’s not all “what are they going to say next to make him stop.” They have that element covered, but also there are cars flipping, cop shoot outs, a standoff and it’s great!

- Favorite Moment – Ok, this isn't really a "Pro", but it gets a special shout out because I liked it so much. Remember when I mentioned actor Alex Kaluzhsky had my favorite line in the movie? Kaluzhsky’s “Geo” is on the hijacked subway with his laptop, video chatting with his girlfriend. Of course the connection is cut once underground but the hijackers install routers so Ryder can surf the net. The laptop is on the floor when the connection is restored and the girlfriend can see what’s going on. While Geo is face down on the floor his girlfriend starts talking. She’s sobbing, “I love you.” No response. “Don’t you love me? Why aren’t you saying it back?” Geo angrily crawls up to the computer screen and in a frustrated whisper says, “I’m sort of having a weird day!” This moment was just so relatable and really brought the movie closer to home for me. I loved it, it was really funny!

- Secondary Characters – Roger Ebert makes a good point, “This version occupies a denatured action-movie landscape, with no time for local color and a transit system control room that humbles Mission Control. That also may explain the film’s lack of time to establish the supporting characters, even Travolta’s partners.” I agree because, of course I didn’t want anyone to die, but I just didn’t really care about anyone except Washington. However, I think putting more emphasis on the secondary characters may have hung up the pacing a little and if that’s the case then I’d pass on the secondary characters.

- A Little Over the Top – The cars flipping during collisions are a little dramatic, but dang it if it doesn’t make for a good action sequence!

“The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” is certainly entertaining. Now that it’s up against “Transformers 2” I don’t think it stands a chance, but make sure to catch it on DVD because you’ll really enjoy Washington and Travolta’s performances.

"Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” – Frank Sinatra
So may the prayers, tranquilizers and JD be with you and see you next time.