The Night Out: The Taking Of Pelham 123 (2009), or Epileptic Credits- Now I KNOW It’s A Tony Scott Movie!!!

17 06 2009

Why is Tony Scott so crazy? He makes the kind of movies that a young punk should make, but he’s 64 years old!!!  The Taking of Pelham 123 looks like it was made by someone a lot younger and more impulsive than him. That can be both a good and a bad thing, because while this remake of the 1974 train robbery flick is flashy, hip, and filled with well-paid big names, it lacks suspense because of its cock-sure story design and its use of gimmicky, eye-rolling dialog. It is the epitome of a modern Hollywood movie, for good or for ill, and while I don’t hate it, I can’t help but feel a little cheated.

It’s a peaceful day in New York City. The birds are singing, the rodents seem a little less diseased, and the smell of human fecal matter coming from the subway isn’t so overpowering. Good ol’ subway dispatcher Walter Garber is having himself a gay ole afternoon, making the commute to work a little easier for the employed in NYC. Everything’s going great UNTIL four armed men make a daring and violent attack on one of the subway trains in the middle of the tunnels. Separating themselves from the rest of the trains, the leader of the group, a mysterious and ultra-violent man named Ryder, calls Garber’s train radio and demands that the city of New York pay him $10 million to not kill any of the people on board the train. After talking with him and hearing his demands for a minute, Garber calls the police and alerts the authorities of his demands. Shockingly enough, though, when the hostage negotiator comes in to talk about a deal, he kills a hostage and demands to talk to Garber again!!! He just plain likes the guy, and doesn’t want to talk to anyone else. So it’s up to regular old Garber to negotiate with this maniac and buy the cops some time to get the money to the subway in time to save all the people on board the doomed Pelham 123. Can a regular everyman take on the likes of these ruffians? Is there something more to these masterminds than meets the eye? Save us, Garber!

The premise, a hostage negotiation situation, sounds passable, but once you’re actually watching it, you quickly become aware that watching people talking over a train radio isn’t as exciting as you thought it would be. It’s the kind of movie where when they can’t think of anything action-oriented to do, they make a lot of “tough-guy demand” dialog scenes where there’s some boring rapport going on between the negotiator and the terrorist that shows that they respect one another, blah blah blah. Well, if you love the idea of me TALKING about it, you’ll love actually having to sit through it, because there’s a lot of it!

Tony Scott will always be that director who feels like he has to be on the cutting edge of everything. He’s gotta use a bunch of breakthrough techniques, he has to make everything shiny and cool for the kids. It’s admirable, but in this movie, he nearly goes too far. If Domino was one step over the line of what’s considered mentally stable editing and framing, this movie is one step before the line. It’s very loud, flashy, and obnoxious (which could be either a metaphor for New York City or Tony Scott), and while I didn’t particularly like it, it has a certain surreal sense to it that makes you kind of begrudgingly respect it. My personal favorite weird Tony Scott touch in this movie is the opening credit sequence, where all the credits have their own little sound effects and music cues!!! Classic Scott (Tony)!!!

The acting stands at a crossroads; on one side, we have Denzel Washington, the earnest actor who plays an earnest man looking to keep people alive despite his humble position. On the other hand, we have John Travolta, a creature from Mars who has come to take human specimens back to his home planet, who plays the deranged and slightly bisexual Ryder. I really enjoyed Denzel’s performance; it’s funny, it’s sincere, it’s tinged with emotion here and there. It’s a good heroic archetype that plays well to Washington’s strengths. Travolta, back to the other side, is pretty lackluster, opting to be frantic and weird instead of genuinely intimidating. Yeah, he shoots a few people, but what makes that scarier; Travolta calling people “motherfuckers” like he just heard the word five minutes before and finds it fascinating, or the fact that Scott staged the shootings very realistically and graphically? Either way, if they had found someone a little less eccentric to play Ryder, I would have bought it a lot more.

This is a renter, not a buy! Especially don’t go see this one in theaters. This is a movie best left for your last pick on rental night rather than a serious choice of what to see on the big screen. It’s not original enough or intriguing enough to deserve big screen treatment, and it doesn’t even stack up to the original version’s gritty cynicism! I found it to be okay, but not worth anyone’s time at the movies. I give The Taking of Pelham 123 5 1/2 credit sequence sound effects out of 10.

Tomorrow we continue with Goregirl’s requests, when I watch Stranger Than Paradise! Until then!!!



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