Tony Scott first started his now patented, zip-zoom, head-inducing style of filming with Man on Fire, a film I like very much. But he wore that style out with Domino and especially with Déjà Vu. Now Scott is back, toning down his blazing, repetitive cinematography, with The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, a completely decent action thriller.
The film, a re-vamp of the 1974 cult classic, casts a sturdy Denzel Washington as a train dispatcher, who finds himself quickly, and violently, in the center of a hostage situation. You see, a badass John Travolta has hijacked a train, parked it in an underground tunnel and demanded $10 mil in an hour, or else people start to die. Basic plot, nothing new.
What propels this film above your standard summer flare, are the performances. Washington is great here, putting on a few pounds to really understand the desk worm. James Gandolfini, as the post-Giuliani, post-9/11 mayor of NYC is cunning and smart, leaving Tony Soprano way behind. The rest of the supporting crew is good as well, but it’s Travolta that steals the show. With his shaved head, prison-tattooed neck and manic energy, we totally believe him every step of the way. He’s a villain that talks the talk (as they all do) but he walks the walk as well (which many never do).
The camera may zip around a bit too much, and the music can be annoying (I mean really, how many different remixes of Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” can you put into a two hour film). But I’d say that the Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is the best action fare out there right now. B