Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 – A Movie Review

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Jan 172010
 

In early afternoon, four armed men hijack a subway train in Manhattan. They stop on a slight incline, decoupling the first car to let the rest of the train coast back. Their leader is Ryder; he connects by phone with Walter Garber, the dispatcher watching that line. Garber is a supervisor temporarily demoted while being investigated for bribery. Ryder demands $10 million within an hour, or he’ll start shooting hostages. He’ll deal only with Garber. The mayor okays the payoff, the news of the hostage situation sends the stock market tumbling, and it’s unclear what Ryder really wants or if Garber is part of the deal.

Genres: Action/Adventure, Thriller, Crime/Gangster and Remake; Release Date: July 24th, 2009 (wide)

Starring: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, James Gandolfini, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Brian Haley

Directed by: Tony Scott

I’m behind on writing reviews. We watched this on DVD a couple of weekends ago. We never saw this in the theater. I wasn’t expecting much from this remake of the original, especially with Travolta in a starring role, and because it was a remake by an explosion-happy director (Tony Scott). But, it was actually not too bad, with some nice plot twists.

Of course, the biggest reason the movie succeeds is Denzel Washington. Washington plays a disgraced (investigation pending) transit executive who’s currently slumming as the control chief. On his shift, naturally, a 1:23 train out of Pelham (New York City) suddenly stops in the middle of its run, and a hijacker demands $10 million to be delivered in exactly one hour, or passengers start dying unnaturally.

What makes this a little more than your typical cat-and-mouse game is the undercurrent of what’s gotten Washington’s character into hot water, as well as Travolta’s character’s actual motives.

Washington and Travolta play off each other very nicely, with Washington’s flawless portrayal of a flawed man far more convincing than Travolta’s garden-variety unhinged wacko. Essentially, Washington was good enough to counterbalance Travolta’s overacting.  Washington’s Walter Garber is unsure of himself, an actual Everyman thrust into a madman’s master plan.

There are some changes from the original, true, but they don’t seem contrived; for example, Walter Matthau was a transit cop in the 1974 version, not some under-investigation suit.

The action is tense throughout, especially since you assume that the hijackers are going to have to murder someone at some point (otherwise, why have a deadline?) Somehow, the movie manages to be gripping and realistic without being over the top. There are some minor bouts of nonsense, and maybe in the final 20 minutes or so it’s a little by the numbers in its approach to action, but overall it’s not bad at all. It’s certainly a lot better than I’d expect a John Travolta movie to be, but maybe that’s because he’s the bad guy here, and they’re expected to be over the top.

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88 Minutes

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Oct 242008
 

88minutes_poster.jpgDr. Jack Gramm is a college professor who moonlights as a forensic psychiatrist for the FBI. When Gramm receives a death threat claiming he has only 88 minutes to live, he must use all his skills and training to narrow down the possible suspects, who include a disgruntled student, a jilted former lover, and a serial killer who is already on death row, before his time runs out.

Genres: Drama and Thriller ; Running Time: 1 hr. 47 min.; Release Date: April 18th, 2008 (wide); MPAA Rating: R for disturbing violent content, brief nudity and language.

Starring: Al Pacino, Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski, Neal McDonough, Benjamin McKenzie

Directed by: Jon Avnet

Not great but not awful either. It is worth a rental fee but not much more. Pacino played his roll as best you can given the very bad screenplay. Unfortunately, the movie was disjointed, and a lot of the plot lines just really didn’t add to the story. Some of the other actors came across as amateurish.

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Fracture

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Aug 252007
 

Fracture Movie PosterWealthy, brilliant, and meticulous Ted Crawford, a structural engineer in Los Angeles, shoots his wife and entraps her lover. He signs a confession; at the arraignment, he asserts his rights to represent himself and asks the court to move immediately to trial. The prosecutor is Willy Beachum, a hotshot who’s soon to join a fancy civil-law firm, told by everyone it’s an open and shut case. Crawford sees Beachum’s weakness, the hairline fracture of his character: Willy’s a winner. The engineer sets in motion a clockwork crime with all the objects moving in ways he predicts.

Director
Gregory Hoblit

Genre
Crime Drama Thriller

Cast
Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn, Rosamund Pike, Embeth Davidtz, Billy Burke, Cliff Curtis, Fiona Shaw, Bob Gunton, Josh Stamberg, Xander Berkeley, Zoe Kazan

I thought the intellectual chess game between Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling was pure joy. What a pleasure to watch the two play mind games with each other — with the audience in on the action. Thought the pace was good, the direction suspenseful. The only aspect of the movie that I would say was less than A+ was the love interest between Ryan Gosling and Rosamund Pike. I thought it a bit confusing that she was both his boss and his love interest. Not sure they needed the full love interest in the plot. All in all, a most entertaining movie. Other than that, the plot line of the legal case was engaging, understandable and realistic. I highly recommend it to those interested in movies that make you think.

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