'The Taking of Pelham 123' is not a bad film: it's ponderous and shallow, but always watchable. But what it crucially fails to do, especially in the light of its illustrious predecessor, is justify its own existence.
Whereas the original, directed by Joseph Sargent, was essentially a well-oiled B movie, the new incarnation, directed by Tony Scott, is bristling with high-tech gimcrackery and over-the-top camera flourishes.
Against all odds and better advice, director Tony Scott, screenwriter Brian Helgeland and main protagonists Denzel Washington and John Travolta take a much-loved genre classic and arguably make it better.
Like most of Scott's recent films, this one ends in self-indulgent silliness. You end up asking yourself, how do the few fun bits of the film manage to survive in the midst of so much lousy filmmaking?
As Ryder's motives begin to reveal themselves, The Taking of Pelham 123 loses its aura of post-9/11 dread, replaced by a muddled commentary on Wall Street greed in these days of raging financial crises.
It is remarkable how, with all of the advances in technology over the years, a story like this can remain largely unchanged despite a 35 year gap between tellings. By allowing the movie to unfold in real time, Scott enhances the level of suspense.
Denzel Washington is that valuable paradox, the relatable supernova. [But] it's too bad the movie around him isn't better -- the '74 edition, propelled by David Shire's incredibly badass theme music, kicks the remake's behind all the way to Coney Island.
An open-hydrant whoooosh of an action thriller about a hijacked NYC subway train with passengers held as hostages -- a caffeinated update of a 1974 city-on-fire cult classic that cracked wise with a cynical, now nostalgia-inducing, graffiti-era veracity.
Film must truly be a director's medium. How else can such a deep pool of talent -- cool-as-a-cucumber Denzel Washington, James Gandolfini as a shifty NYC mayor, screenwriter Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential) produce such a pounding headache of a remake?