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Jun 27, 2009

Film Review: The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)

the-taking-of-pelham-123-(2009)-posterThe Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) is a remake that exceeds its original 1974 incarnation in depth and character development. In the original film, what the audience saw was what they got. In Scott’s film, not everything is what it seems initially. In the original, the authorities continually and hilariously antagonize (potentially) the leader of the heist crew through all three acts of that film. They assume he is a “fruit cake” because his accent denotes English heritage. It’s humorous and completely unrealistic. In Scott’s film, the authorities take the situation seriously from the outset when they are made aware of the hostage situation.

The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) is an almost by-the-numbers heist film. Unlike The General, we do not get to know the main characters as we seemed to in Heat (especially their home life). The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) does try though, dipping its toe into the current circumstances and what makes certain characters act and behave in the way they do. One of the best moments in the film is such a scene. It involves the truth behind Walter Garber (Denzel Washington)’s current predicament in front of a room full of colleagues that respect him and hostage negotiators. It is the finest, well acted, non-action moment in the film.

For all of the nuances add to this incarnation of The Taking of Pelham 123(2009), there were two others made from the book of the same name written by Morton Freedgood, it is not without its flaws. Since The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) is standard Hollywood-fare, like the neophyte structures of The Devil Wears Prada and 21. The viewer, applying minimal logic, already knows what is going to happen to the antagonists and what will most-likely transpire between Ryder and Garber. For the most part, The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) is formula film and as I said earlier, is by-the-numbers: the protagonist and antagonist are introduced, there is a get-to-know-each-other period, the protagonist takes a personal stake in the proceedings, chases bad guy, there is the final, self-righteous confrontation, and then the text book happy ending. This situation was not helped as the commercials for The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) gave away major plot points for its third act. It seems whoever but together those television advertisements could not rely on the fact that it was a Tony Scott film and by default clips of the action and exposition in the first two acts was sufficient to bait the line.

John Travolta’s acting and his character Ryder aka Dennis Ford’s anger towards New York City is a bit hit or miss during the film. Travolta seemed as though he was trying to hard to get Ryder’s message across to Garber and the world at large instead of being subtle and calculating. At the same time, Travolta also supplies the majority of the film’s humorous moments (“He’s got a sexy voice….In prison he would have been my bitch.”), giving audiences a breather from the violence and bloodshed.

James Gandolfini plays the now cliché, because of real world antics, politician and major of New York that (previously) decided to indulge his sexual urges outside of the martial bed. He is the butt of many jokes in The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) yet bares their blunt with a gracious smile and politician’s nonchalance. These people, after all, are potential voters for his party.

Tony Scott’s The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) is an action heist film that does not reinvent the wheel for the humungous ocean of the genre but does make a few splashes along its runtime. As Ryder asks: “Is this what you thought your day would be like when you put your socks on this morning?” Concerning this film, pretty much.

Rating: 7.5/10

Soundtrack Review for The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)

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  • http://getafilm.blogspot.com/ Daniel

    I have to disagree with you on this one, though you do make a good point about the dispatchers taking the threat seriously in this one and the best scene being Denzel’s…moment.

    But I still prefer the acting, editing, and back-and-forth dialogue from the first one. The new additions here – a bigger chase and explosion and a ridiculous webcam – added nothing, and almost took away a lot.

    Plus I hated the ending of this one, as compared to Matthau’s “Gesundheit”.
    .-= Daniel´s last blog ..Underrated MOTM (Special Edition): The Truman Show (1998) =-.

  • http://getafilm.blogspot.com Daniel

    I have to disagree with you on this one, though you do make a good point about the dispatchers taking the threat seriously in this one and the best scene being Denzel’s…moment.

    But I still prefer the acting, editing, and back-and-forth dialogue from the first one. The new additions here – a bigger chase and explosion and a ridiculous webcam – added nothing, and almost took away a lot.

    Plus I hated the ending of this one, as compared to Matthau’s “Gesundheit”.
    .-= Daniel´s last blog ..Underrated MOTM (Special Edition): The Truman Show (1998) =-.

  • http://film-book.com/ filmbook

    The first film did have a cool ending but I did like Travolta’s “your my hero” ending to the new one as well.

    The back and forth of the acting in the first one was good but the nature of it is what I had issue with. No one would break balls like that with peoples’ lives are at stake. This damaged the credibility of the dialogue significantly.

    The webcam I could take or leave. It didn’t alter my perception either way.

  • http://film-book.com filmbook

    The first film did have a cool ending but I did like Travolta’s “your my hero” ending to the new one as well.

    The back and forth of the acting in the first one was good but the nature of it is what I had issue with. No one would break balls like that with peoples’ lives are at stake. This damaged the credibility of the dialogue significantly.

    The webcam I could take or leave. It didn’t alter my perception either way.

  • http://www.reelwhore.com/ Reel Whore

    The webcam seemed pointless to me. If it had served some purpose other than allowing a needy girl to whine to her man, then maybe it wouldn’t have bothered me.

    The trailers really did kill the momentum and surprise in this movie. An image of Travolta and Washington is enough to sell any movie.
    .-= Reel Whore´s last blog ..The Jizt: Knowing =-.

  • http://www.reelwhore.com Reel Whore

    The webcam seemed pointless to me. If it had served some purpose other than allowing a needy girl to whine to her man, then maybe it wouldn’t have bothered me.

    The trailers really did kill the momentum and surprise in this movie. An image of Travolta and Washington is enough to sell any movie.
    .-= Reel Whore´s last blog ..The Jizt: Knowing =-.

  • http://film-book.com/ filmbook

    I think the webcam was an attempt to bring the film into our era.

  • http://film-book.com filmbook

    I think the webcam was an attempt to bring the film into our era.

  • http://www.reelwhore.com/ Reel Whore

    A somewhat weak atempt. I guess I half expected it to play into the plot resolution, but it never really did.

  • http://www.reelwhore.com/ Reel Whore

    A somewhat weak atempt. I guess I half expected it to play into the plot resolution, but it never really did.