The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)

blah blah not as good blah blah go rent the original blah blah forgotten gem.

To the point: John Travolta – talented as he is – cannot play bad guys. He’s too likable in general, and even if he weren’t he’s inseperable from his Tom Hanks-esque public persona for it to “take.” The only time he’s “worked” as a heavy was in Face/Off… where the whole point was that he was a bad guy in the “skin” of a good guy. Here, despite a script that hands him piles of profanity and multiple “psycho freak-out” moments, he just comes off ridiculous in a douchey handlebar mustache and a neck-tattoo. A late-in-the-game twist to his actual identity tries in vain to establish an excuse for his unbelievability to no avail – he drags the whole film down.

Aside from the expected overdirection by Tony Scott (freeze-frames, floating text, whizzing cameras, fast-forward editing, google-maps FX all accounted for) the rest of the movie isn’t that bad. Denzel Washington buries most of his superstar persona under a frumpy guise to good effect; and the supporting cast including reliable stalwarts like Luis Guzman, John Turturo and James Gandolfini do their thing admirably. It also has a smart script that packs in conflict without needing to make any of the characters stupid or asshole-ish for no reason.

Everybody is smart, nobody is a designated-saint. At one point, amid the ribbing of Gandolfini’s mayor character over a big Giuliani-style infidelity scandal, someone innevitably asks “was she worth it?” His matter-of-fact response? “Yes!” Great stuff. Too bad it doesn’t add up to much.

One thought on “The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009)

  1. tyra menendez says:

    the movie channels have drug the original out, so i decided to watch it, last night.
    i have to say, you hear the destinctly 70's music and you start thinking cheese, but i was pleasantly surprised. despite some of the flaws.


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