Movie Review - 'Pelham' Redux: Trouble On The Tracks Once Again Tony Scott's thriller — a remake of the 1974 film of the same title — is a deft and professional genre piece that roars right along, despite what some might think is an excess of plot-convenient coincidence.
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'Pelham' Redux: Trouble On The Tracks Once Again

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'Pelham' Redux: Trouble On The Tracks Once Again

Review

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'Pelham' Redux: Trouble On The Tracks Once Again

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The latest big-budget thriller from director Tony Scott is a remake of the classic movie, "The Taking of Pelham 123," which is a reference to a subway line in New York City. Denzel Washington and John Travolta play the leads, and it's Travolta's character who takes subway passengers hostage. Thriller aficionados may wonder how this compares to the 1974 version of the movie. Here's Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan with our review.

KENNETH TURAN: Tony Scott is a director who makes the trains run on time. I don't just mean the specific New York City subway cars of his efficient thriller, "The Taking of Pelham 123." Scott's always been good at running the metaphorical trains of the action movie world.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Taking of Pelham 123")

Mr. JOHN TRAVOLTA (Actor): (as Ryder) Pelham 123 to rail control center. Do you read me?

TURAN: The director starts this subway hostage drama with a rush, with John Travolta's evil kidnapper talking to Denzel Washington's subway dispatcher.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Taking of Pelham 123")

Mr. DENZEL WASHINGTON (Actor): (As Walter Garber) I understand, I understand, Pelham 123. Who the hell is this?

Mr. TRAVOLTA: (as Ryder) This is the man who's going to rock this city. This is the man who's going to give this city a run for its money.

TURAN: Because this is a hostage drama, screenwriter Brian Helgeland had to rely on the tension created by words, specifically the back-and-forth of ransom negotiations for 19 passengers and crew.

So it's a good thing that Travolta and Washington have enough charisma to hold our attention, though their only contact is over an intercom.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Taking of Pelham 123")

Mr. TRAVOLTA: (as Ryder) You are exactly the guy I want to talk to. I want you to tell me, what is the going rate for a New York City hostage today? Do you think a million dollars is too much? I do. I think it's corny. Now, get your calculator out. You got one? Do you have a calculator?

Mr. WASHINGTON: (as Walter Garber) Yeah, we got one, I got one.

Mr. TRAVOLTA: (as Ryder) Okay. Good add this up. You've got $526,315.79, that's 5-2-6-3-1-5 point 79. Now, times that by 19. What do you got?

Mr. WASHINGTON: (as Walter Garber) That comes out to $10 million plus one cent.

Mr. TRAVOLTA: (as Ryder) Ooh, that is a deal. Now, you call the mayor and you tell him the price, and then you tell him I want it in 100,000 100 dollar bills. You got that?

Mr. WASHINGTON: (as Walter Garber) I got it. What about the one cent?

Mr. TRAVOLTA: (as Ryder) Oh, you keep that one cent. It's your broker fee.

TURAN: The third star of this film is the venerable New York City subway system itself, and that's as it should be. The "Pelham" crew filmed on the subway for four weeks, the most extensive shoot there ever, and the result is exceptionally convincing.

"Pelham" has its clunky plot elements, and a colossal amount of coincidence. But the film does what a good hostage negotiator does: It distracts us from what's going wrong and pulls us into the story.

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