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I didn’t see the original.  I feel that whenever someone reviews a remake of a film, they should state early on whether or not they saw the original.  That way, you know whether you’re in for a comparative review, or a fresh take on the story.  So with that in mind, I have to say that I really enjoyed THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123.  It didn’t have an earth shattering story and it wasn’t all that original, but it had some intense moments and enough witty banter to keep you entertained throughout.

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Ryder (John Travolta) is a man on a mission.  For reasons that will later be revealed, he’s hell bent on taking over a subway train in NYC and holding its passengers hostage while the city scrounges to come up with his money.  His only contact with the city is Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), a man with issues of his own, but today he happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

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The highlight of this film is the banter between Travolta and Washington.  But what makes it unique is that they don’t share any screen time, except for a few brief moments in the third act.  But even as they communicate via radios, watching them go back and forth is a blast.  It’s a credit to both actors that they really spend most of the film acting opposite a handheld radio and still manage to illicit emotions and responses from the audience.  And even though the shaky-cam, fast editing style of Tony Scott is getting old, give him credit for timing the dialogue scenes perfectly to allow his two stars to really shine.

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John Travolta should also get his fair share of credit here, if only because I’ve been so hard on him for his streak of unwatchable films in recent years (I’m looking at you, WILD HOGS).  But he’s at his best when he gets to cut loose and get crazy with his bad guys.  BROKEN ARROW and FACE OFF were two great examples of how good he can be when playing the bad guy, and I would say he matches those performances with Pelham.  There’s just something about crazy, bad-guy Travolta that’s really fun to watch.

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As much as I loved Travolta’s crazy character, there were some aspects of the film that Tony Scott should have been able to avoid.  We didn’t get any resolution to the relationship between Garber and his boss, then they threw in some worthless moments between Garber and his wife.  Those scenes have their place, but they were so underdeveloped that they only served to distract from the intensity.  The audience wanted more exchanges between Ryder and Garber and I would have happily sacrificed other moments for more of banter.

Despite that, this film serves its purpose, which is to entertain you.  It moves at a very brisk pace, has some good, intense moments and features a good performance from Mr. Travolta.  It won’t wow you with any special effects and you can probably guess how it’s going to end, but overall it’s a fun ride.


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