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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Be Cool

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Nov 132005
 

Be Cool (2005)Disenchanted with the movie industry, Chili Palmer (John Travolta) tries the music industry, meeting and romancing a widow of a music exec (Uma Thurman) on the way.

Directed by
F. Gary Gray

Genres
Comedy, Crime, Music

Cast
John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Vince Vaughn, Cedric the Entertainer, Andr? Benjamin, Steven Tyler, Robert Pastorelli, Christina Milian, Paul Adelstein, Debi Mazar, Gregory Alan Williams, Harvey Keitel, The Rock, Danny DeVito, James Woods

Get Shorty was an excellent film. It was funny and had the perfect balance of highly comical acting and a serious plot. Be Cool is like some cheap knock-off trying to pass for a sequel. John Travolta as Chili Palmer seems to have forgotten that he was ever in the mob. He plays it like he’s a bored movie exec, rather than a bored movie exec who used to be a Shylock. Uma Thurman, great in nearly every role she’s ever played, comes off as strained and confusing. Is she supposed to be ditzy or clever? The chemistry between her and Travolta is strained and uncomfortable. Other than that, just add every movie clich? you can think of. A well-educated rap producer by Cedric the Entertainer, an inept gangster wannabe in Andre 3000, the girl with heart, soul, and a good set of pipes in Christina Milian, a gimmicky black dude wannabe in Vince Vaughn, and a stupid celebrity cameo by Stephen Tyler. The only funny part was the Rock, who invents his own new clich? as a gay Samoan bodyguard actor wannabe. Probably the biggest crime is the plot: IT MAKES NO SENSE. Get Shorty was clever with Chili playing one group against another and coming out on top. But this film tries that with about a million different characters. And even Chili doesn’t seem to know what’s going on. Fans of Get Shorty be warned: this is a very different, very worse movie.

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Phenomenon

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Jun 262004
 

Phenomenon (1996)

An ordinary man sees a bright light descend from the sky, and discovers he now has super-intelligence and telekinesis.

Directed by
Jon Turteltaub

Genres
Drama, Romance, Fantasy

Cast
John Travolta, Kyra Sedgwick, Forest Whitaker, Robert Duvall, Jeffrey DeMunn, Richard Kiley, Brent Spiner, Vyto Ruginis, Bruce A. Young, Michael Milhoan, Sean O’Bryan, David Gallagher, Ashley Buccille, Tony Genaro, Troy Evans

VHS

This is defnitely a favorite movie of mine. John Travlota did a great job playing a man who develops an unbounded intellect after seeing a bright light. I won’t give away much of the story, but I thought it was a great exploration of the possibilities of our brains.

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