In a year when every summer film has been directed by some bland, visionless studio hack like McG, it was great watching a movie that clearly had a style and vision to it. At no point in “The Taking of Pelham 123,” you do not know that yes, this is a Tony Scott movie. All of his signature touches are here – the slow-quick motion edits, the fly in transitions, the map of the city with the text overlays it’s all here. Usually, I don’t like it when Directors insert themselves into the movie, but here it works.
For a movie written by a great screenwriter like Brian Helgeland, it’s filled with some draw droppingly bad moments. There were times when things got so stupid that I wanted to walk out, these moments kept taking me out of an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable movie. It’s why I’m having so much trouble with this review, does the good make you forget the bad? Ultimately, yes, but wow the bad moments are really, really bad. Most of them center around New York City’s Mayor (James Gandolfini) and this idiot Girl whose boyfriend has a laptop on the train that happens to have the web cam turned on so everyone in the city can see what’s going on. I got the feeling she cared more about being an Internet star than her boyfriend, there’s this dumb moment when she’s begging her boyfriend to tell her he loves her when one of the Terrorist is right near the computer.
The head hijacker Ryder (John Travolta) has everything so organized and well planned but he doesn’t notice that he’s all over the news and that there’s a live Internet feed from the train? Keep in mind Ryder went through a lot of trouble to make sure he had an Internet Connection. For what? Just to do a little Google research for when the moment called for it, but not to monitor the news? But then he was monitoring the news, yet somehow he never noticed the main anything other than what he was focused on? I’m trying hard not to give away this major plot point.
Then there’s the Mayor, the first time we meet him he’s riding the Subway Train, right there I rolled my eyes, but it gets better, when he finds out that there’s a terrorist situation and he only has an hour to respond he tells his people “We’ll take the train, it’ll get us there faster,” then his guy tells the Conductor, “no stops along the way,” when all the passengers on the train complain, the Mayor says of course we’ll make all 10 scheduled stops and he says it with this smarmy smile. I wanted to walk out of the theater right then and there.
Are you telling me that a NY Mayor who hears that he only has 40 minutes to save Hostages on a train would A) Take a freaking train to headquarters and B) Make scheduled stops???? WTF? When they finally get to Transit headquarters his advisor tells the Mayor he has to give a quick comment to try and reassure the City, the Mayor’s response “I don’t want to go out there, I’m not Giuliani. “ Then the first question some Fox reporter asks isn’t about the Train being taken over, it’s about the Mayor’s affair. Again WTF? Also why is it whenever White people do something it’s never treated as a terrorist act? Where was the FBI, Homeland Security, or anyone from the Federal Government? They left the entire situation to be handled by some retarded Mayor?
They never once shut the city down and kept the trains running throughout the entire movie which became a major plot point during this excruciating long sequence of the Police trying to get the money cross town. I’ll give them, they only had an hour to pull all of this together, but they shut streets and subways down in Big Cities for far less all the time. Then there was the moment where Garber (Denzel Washington) goes to meet Ryder and his wife tells him to bring home Milk.
What works in this film is the relationship that builds between Garber and Ryder. I’m not sure if they’ve ever worked together in the past, but you can tell that there seems to be a real connection between Washington and Travolta they are both really good here. The quiet character moments and Scott’s vision are what keeps you hooked. While I point out all the negatives in this film, I did come away enjoying most of it, this could have easily been a B or A film if they cleaned up the script a bit more and totally re-wrote the part of the Mayor. I understand they probably didn’t want some know it all Giuliani type, but they could have found some happy medium between the “Take charge blowhard and a complete fool.”
Final Grade C
By Michelle Alexandria
Originally posted 06/14/09