2009-06-26 / Entertainment/Lifestyles

MovieScope

'The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3' - Subway Psycho
By Robert Snyder

Director John Huston once said, "Don't remake good movies. Remake bad movies and improve them."

With his remake of the 1974 classic, "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3," Director Tony Scott has obliterated the late great film master's sage advice. Scott's modern rethinking of the New York City subway hijacking thriller is a classic unto itself, propelled by the outstanding performances of Denzel Washington and John Travolta in the respective good guy, bad guy roles. And Scott himself is wise to tone down his usual MTV flamboyant filmmaking style and keep the focus on the cat-andmouse relationship of the two main characters, who find that their common ground in corruption is key to keeping the captives alive.

Based on the John Godey novel, the basic premise of both films is the same: A psychotic criminal mastermind (now Travolta, then Robert Shaw) and his motley crew take over a subway car full of passengers and threaten to kill them one per minute, unless ransom money (now, $10 million, then $1 million) is delivered to them in one hour. The man in the middle is the transit dispatcher (now, Washington, then Walter Matthau) who, at first, appears way over his head as a hostage negotiator, and is told so by the real hostage negotiator assigned to the case (John Turturro).

However, Ryder (Travolta) has taken a liking to Garber (Washington), having formed a bond with the shared knowledge that they both have done dubious deeds during the recent economic meltdown. Into the mix comes politically shaken NYC mayor (James Gandolfini), who is reeling from a sex scandal and hesitates making a show of leadership for the media with the line, "I left my Rudy Giuliani suit at home."

Working off the Brian Helgeland script that brims with post-9/11 relevance, Scott tightens the subway suspense, while squeezing impassioned portrayals from his two stars. However, he forsakes the wild-trainrun amuck finale of the first film for a face-to-face Ryder-Garber confrontation, the principals having previously communicated through squawk box, phone or radio. If you are a fan of the original film, you will be pleased to see that Scott and company disregarded Huston's law and created a great remake.

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