"The Taking Of Pelham 123" is a 2009 thriller remake of the 1974 film of the same name directed by Tony Scott (Man On Fire) and stars Denzel Washington (Training Day) as Rail Control Center worker Walter Garber who is being investigated for allegedly taking a bribe, but all is not well in the Rail Control Center as a group of heavily armed men led by the mysterious Ryder (John Travolta - Pulp Fiction) take control of the 1.23 train to Pelham and hold its passengers hostage. Garber is then forced to negotiate with Ryder in order to save the lives of the hostages.
This is the latest Washington and Scott collaboration since their previous films such as Deja Vu, Man On Fire and Crimson Tide. Scott and Washington like Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe (Gladiator, American Gangster, Body of Lies, Robin Hood) prove to be an effective duo with many of the films they have collaborate on being financial successes, and highly enjoyable movies, so how does this remake hold up compared to these other collaborations?
Set in New York City the film is able to create a great contrast in tonal locations that the film is set, with the dark underground train tracks and control room contrasting from and the bright, busy streets of New York despite several seemingly unnecessary slow motion moments to highlight key details that seems to interrupt the flow of the movie, in the opening credits in particular.
A count down clock to the hostage deadline gives the film a mush needed sense of urgency as the plot progresses and helps build a tension as the two characters of Ryder and Garber come head to head.
Which brings us onto our characters themselves and the difference here is staggering, Washington's Gaber is a well portrayed every-man a husband and farther who is simply doing his job when things go wrong and is then relied on to resolve the situation. Granted the character is given a shady back story in order to give the villain Ryder a reason to be fully open with him and make the character a little more three dimensional but overall Garber is a highly sympathetic and relate-able character, who is easy to root for as the film progresses.
Travolta on the other hand is far less effective as Train hijacker Ryder for a variety of reasons, the main problem is that the audience is supposed to fear that this character might harm the hostages as things go amiss but its hard to fear for them since the characters of the hijackers and the hostages hardly ever seems to interact with one another, Ryder is constantly located in the train cabin away from the hostages so you don't really think about them.
Another problem is that the character far to quick going from a fast talking cool guy to a screaming psycho that likes to say "Motherfucker" a hell of a lot, it just doesn't feel realistic and it gives off this almost cartoon villain effect, make no mistake when Ryder is calm, cool and plotting the character works well the problem is when the character becomes erratic the audience just doesn't buy it.
The film deals with its set up well since Garber is supposed to be a normal guy he cant run around performing action stunts as you would see from a film such as "Die Hard" so instead the film focuses more on the threats that come from talking to one another and what saying the wrong thing may result in for both characters.
When the action begins in the third act the film keeps the characters limitation in mind which prevents the realism running off down one of the tunnels, with Garber limited by his normality resulting in a chase scene rather than a series of gun battles that would have subtracted from the effectiveness of the character development in the first hour of the film.
So "Pelham 123" is a enjoyable enough film; not brilliant, not terrible.
The tension and atmosphere works well, the locations balance one another and Washington's Garber is well developed and likable even if Travolta's Ryder isn't, but this review is based on the fact that i have not seen the original and so is not a comparison meaning your opinion may be differ, but i believe that this film deserves a watch at least.