Friday, November 6, 2009

"The Taking of Pelham 123" is hit and miss

I'm sure you've all had that feeling of being really excited about something, be it a party, a new job, a date or a movie. I had that very feeling about this movie, and while it certainly delivered on action and suspense, there was that certain something that was missing. I liken it to going out on a date with a beautiful woman (or guy). But midway through, you figure out that there's just something a little off about her (him).

This is a remake of the 1974 film of the same name, which starred the late Walter Matthau. In this version, Denzel Washington takes over Matthau's role, as a public transit worker with a checkered recent past that unfolds with the film. No matter what you find out about him, your heart goes out to him. He's a family man who is simply trying to put bread on the table.

It's helmed by director Tony Scott ("Man on Fire"). Several of Scott's trademarks, are evident throughout the film, such as the casting of Washington, spectacular action sequences, and his use of quick, choppy camera movements. If you've never seen a Tony Scott film, his useage of these camera movements may be somewhat nauseating, but you'll quickly find that they add poignancy and intensity to his films.

There are a few actors who can play the role of the antagonist so convincingly, it sends chills up your spine. Examples would be Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith in "The Matrix" trilogy), Jack Nicholson, or more recently, the late Heath Ledger (The Joker in "Batman") or John Travolta (Gabriel Shear in "Swordfish"). In this film, Travolta plays Ryder, the tattooed, angry and jaded ex-Wall Street exec who has fallen on hard times. This was one of the first roles that Travolta took after grieving the loss of his son, who died unexpectedly last year. Seemingly an odd choice, but Travolta plays his roles, whether it's good or evil, with such enthusiasm that you wouldn't know that the man was still hurting. And no matter what role he plays, he always has a grin on his face, whether it's kind and genuine, or sadistic.

This film is certainly entertaining and full of suspense, but it's a very straight forward story with few twists. The twists that are in the film are somewhat formulaic of the action genre. The story is certainly well written and casted, down to the extras on the street. But if the film had been done with anybody else than Washington and Travolta, it wouldn't have worked. These actors carried the film.

"The Taking of Pelham 123" is a great popcorn movie. But it's just that, a well written and casted popcorn movie

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