Combustible Celluloid
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With: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzmán, James Gandolfini, Michael Rispoli, Frank Wood, John Benjamin Hickey, Gary Basaraba, Ramon Rodriguez, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Katherine Sigismund, Jake Siciliano, Aunjanue Ellis, Alex Kaluzhsky, Tonye Patano, Jason Butler Harner, Saidah Arrika Ekulona
Written by: Brian Helgeland, based on a novel by John Godey
Directed by: Tony Scott
MPAA Rating: R for violence and pervasive language
Running Time: 106
Date: 06/04/2009

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Dangers on a Train

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For the latest Hollywood remake, the talented screenwriter Brian Helgeland goes back to the drawing board. Rather than a tense procedural like Joseph Sargent's original The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), he comes up with an interesting character study, developing a much stronger bond between the train hijacker and dispatcher characters. Walter Garber (Denzel Washington) is being investigated for accepting a bribe and meanwhile has been demoted to the dispatch desk. When a hijacker called "Ryder" (John Travolta) takes the title train filled with hostages and rolls it into a tunnel, it's Garber who gets the call. The bad guys demand $10 million to be delivered in just one hour, but during that time, Garber and Ryder engage in some fairly interesting, revealing conversation; it's a movie that passes my "cup of coffee" test, which means that the hero and the villain share a bond and could actually sit down for a cup of coffee together. But then director Tony Scott steps up with his contribution, which means chases and crashes, lots of noise and twitchy low-attention-span camerawork. Thus the film's final stretch loses the emotional connection, and it's fairly patchy overall, but I'm giving it a mild recommendation for its good stretches and appealing characters.

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