The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

The Taking of Pelham 123 is a chick-flick for guys, a dude-flick if you will. It is an engaging yet cliché-ridden, hijack drama that takes place underground in the New York's Subway system. When an armed maniac takes over a single subway car and all its occupants hostage, it is up to a mild-mannered control room operator to save the day.

It pits two veterans of criminal hostage crises against one another. John Travolta (cue Swordfish, Broken Arrow) is the demented mastermind, who is determined to do anything it takes to be successful. Denzel Washington (cue Inside Man, Man on Fire) is the out of shape Civil worker who is himself in the middle of an investigation for bribery and has the ill luck of being the point man for the negotiations.

The movie offers few surprises. The criminal mastermind is humble enough to realize that he cannot hold the entire train hostage and lets everyone but one car go. No one uses the phrase "We do not negotiate with terrorists". Denzel Washington does not look all ripped and in fighting shape during the final chase sequence.

The rest of the movie and plot twists fall neatly into place. A few hostages are shot, a batallion worth of police stand idly by, the official hostage negotiator turns out to be useless, and most upper management decisions end up costing lives. Beyond the story, however, it is up to the two negotiation veterans to pull the story together and they deliver. Without Travolta and Washington, this would have been a 1-star movie at best. Between them there is enough chemistry to keep the audience engaged and invested.

Unlike Unstoppable this is no fast paced thriller. Instead it is a easy afternoon watch, for times when you are just in the mood for a good dude-flick.

January 17, 2011


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