Monday, December 7, 2009

435) The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009)

435) The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 (2009) Dir: Tony Scott Date Released: June 2009 Date Seen: December 7, 2009 Rating: 3.25/5

If anything, Tony Scott's montage-heavy films have regressed stylistically over the years but what they sacrifice in finesse they make up for in frantic energy. His remake of The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is an entertaining mess because it insists on throwing in the viewer's face its heavy-handed view of the city as a relentless roller-coaster full of creeping climbs and abrupt, jerky shifts to second gear. He can't resist overusing fast and slow-motion footage for the film's more violent moments because he's just that excited about the project. That unbridled vigor carries over into John Travolta and Denzel Washington's wonderful chemistry, both of whom know full well how to chew up scenery.

Likewise, though the film doesn't say anything particularly memorable about NYC post 9/11, Travolta plays one of Scott's most complex characters. A disgruntled stock broker turned foul-mouthed train robber, he think through every decision with the veins bulging in his neck. His spiel about "owing God a debt" confirms how desperate he is to remain in control. It's an untenable, incoherent philosophy that could only be maintained by someone so screwed up by the pressures of his impersonal job and lifestyle that it's left him looking for one of two options: instant revenge or suicide. He's at the end of his tether, grappling with a kind of insignificance that most urbanite's face at least once a year, usually around holiday time. And thanks to Travolta's foaming at the mouth, that insecurity carries over wonderfully.

But what do I know? I'm just a Tony Scott apologist.

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