Thursday, 30 July 2009

Film review: The Taking Of Pelham 123 (**1/2)

As remakes go, it's hardly faithful, taking the set up — a gang of robbers hold up a New York subway train and demand cash in exchange for not killing the passengers — and very little else, but it's never less than entertaining. Director Tony Scott, whatever you say about him (and I normally say nice things) knows how a) to tell a story compellingly, b) to shoot action with an eye to the audience, and c) to hook in a terrific cast. Here, he's working with Denzel Washington for the fourth time after Crimson Tide, Man On Fire and Deja Vu, while Scott debutant John Travolta looks more like a 70s porn star than the former Wall Street banker he turns out to be. Based loosely on John Godey's novel which was previously an adapted into Joseph Sargent's 1974 feature The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three starring Walter Matthau from which Tarantino pilfered the colour-coded criminal monikers for Reservoir Dogs, and a 1998 TV movie with Edward James Olmos, this Brian Helgeland-scripted reboot amps up the technology and turns down the slowburn tension in favour of more action and bursts of gratuitous violence, although Washington's morally suspect transport worker Garber is allowed to engage in a series of scenery-chewing tete-a-tetes via radio mike with Travolta's nefarious Ryder. Scott holds back slightly on the hyper visuals that dogged Domino, although there is one ridiculous conversation involving a gallon of milk that will have you rolling your eyes. Slickly enjoyable if intellectually bankrupt, you'll have a fine time watching but forgot about it the moment the credits roll.

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