I have a love/hate relationship with director Tony Scott. His films are generally fun, action-packed 90 minute thrill rides and yet no one pushes the boundary further on the hyperactive and spasmodic MTV-style editing in their films and it drives me to the point of distraction. It definitely did with Man On Fire.
I guess I must be getting used to the effect now because The Taking of Pelham 123 is pretty much shot in the same way but I found that I didn’t mind it so much anymore. In fact, its kind of entertaining to see how much Tony Scott can spice up the most mundane of activities. This film opens with John Travolta waiting at a train station. I do this every weekday on the way to work. For me, its pretty dull. In the eyes of Tony Scott, there is a nu-metal soundtrack that is pumping, no single shot lasts longer than 3 seconds and he’s using crazy pull-focus and handheld zooms on Travoltas face, interspersed with close ups of the location marker and tracks. It makes waiting at a train stop seem so goddamned exciting. It would be pretty cool if he treated his home movies like this too. Like if he added a Creed soundtrack to his kid’s Saturday morning football game for example.
Anyway, Pelham 123 has Travolta hijacking the eponymous train and having a hostage negotiation with Denzel Washington. This is definitely a film that is a product of its time. Travolta’s motives are that he’s an evil Wall St banker and thats reason enough to explain why he’s only interested in aquiring millions of dollars and hurting as many people as he can.
There’s nothing really new here. In fact, I’m pretty sure both Denzel and Travolta have previously played equivalent roles on both sides of the fence here. Its just solidly made, a bit of fun and has a decent supporting cast of nice guys that you like to see in movies (John Turturro, James Gandolfini, unfortunately no Christopher Walken).
Just make sure you’ve had some coffee or aren’t tired before watching this. I wasn’t kidding about the 3 second shot. I don’t think there is literally a single shot in this film that lasts any longer.