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The Taking of Pelham One Two Three Reviews

Page 1 of 45
Bob S

Super Reviewer

April 18, 2009
I don't expect perfect realism in my films but even allowing for dramatic license, I found Pelham 123 just had a bit too much "Alka-Seltzer TV ad" faux authenticity for my taste. Everyone in this movie is oh, so colorful, ethnic and ready with a perfect one-liner. After a while, it just gets to feeling very scripted to me.

Still... a fun flick - beautifully paced and a great time capsule of cruddy NYC circa '74.
Lanning :

Super Reviewer

May 11, 2006
Excuse me, do you people still execute in this state?

For me personally, the best Robert Shaw performance ever. No one scarier than Mr. Blue, I kid you not. He asks this of Matthau right before he . . . Don't want to give it away. It's an electrifying scene.

As if his work in The Laughing Policeman just the year before was a tune-up, Matthau appears again as the dogged cop dutifully dealing with the bad guys. This is for me, his most memorable dramatic role. He and Shaw, as adversaries, give a performance for the ages. I miss them both.

Super Reviewer

November 12, 2006
A ruthless gang with colour coded pseudonyms (sound familiar?!) and automatic weapons hijack a New York subway train in this hugely entertaining heist movie. Walter Matthau is at his sardonic best as the transport cop in charge of the situation, with Robert Shaw as the coldblooded mercenary heading the hijackers who include Hector Elizondo as the obligatory psychotic loose cannon ("they threw him out of the mafia"!) It concentrates more on the dialogue and characters to build tension than fireworks including some great behind the scenes banter as the mix of trademark New Yorker foul-mouthed ill temper, pragmatism and sarcasm come into effect when dealing with the situation, all set to a cool Schifrin-esque soundtrack. One of the best thrillers of the 1970s.

Super Reviewer

October 25, 2012
Director Joseph Sargent's The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is a well crafted and thrilling film with a wonderful cast. The strength of the film lies in an electrifying plot that delivers intense thrills from start to finish. With a brilliant, tense performance by Robert Shaw, this is a stunning, near flawless film that is among the finest action thrillers of the 1970's. This is a stunning work of cinema that is executed to near perfection and the key to the success of the film is in the taut and thrilling, well written script that delivers a memorable and very entertaining plot that still holds up to this day. So many great classic cinematic works are set in New York, and this is one of the few that has been overlooked and very underrated. If you love the classic, unfiltered action films of old that don't use nifty special effects, but the power of a terrific script, wonderful acting to create its tense situations, then give this one a viewing. Brilliantly executed and this is a stellar work of a heist film that has enough thrills to rival any action pictures that came after it. The remake was good, but it fell short of course, and with that being said, this film's biggest strength is the tour De force demented performance of Shaw who plays the leader of criminals who highjack the train Pelham one, two, three. His role alone is for me anyways one of the most memorable roles in any film of this period and it is among his greatest performances. Sit back, buckle in and be prepared because Pelham one, two, three is a ride that you won't soon forget.

Super Reviewer

June 14, 2012
Mr. Blue: Now, then, ladies and gentlemen, do you see this gun? It fires 750 rounds of 9-millimeter ammunition per minute. In other words, if all of you simultaneously were to rush me, not a single one of you would get any closer than you are right now. I do hope I've made myself understood. 

"No other hijack was ever like this."

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is a great classic thriller. It's exciting, suspenseful, funny, and brilliant. I saw the remake from Tony Scott awhile ago and I moderately liked it. I was not expecting the original to be this good. It's tense, but it has a sense of humor throughout. It's also incredibly intelligent, which is a lot more than you can say about the average crime thriller. The pacing is perfect. It isn't hyperkinetic, but it also keeps a foot on the gas the whole time. There's just nothing I can say about the film. The acting is good; I especially liked Robert Shaw as Mr. Blue. The whole runtime is filled with entertainment and fun; and there's always a sense of danger throughout. 

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three describes the action of the film. Four hijackers take over a subway train in New York. They have 18 hostages and order the city to get them $1 Million in an hour or they will start shooting hostages. While their in the tunnels, a police officer works to try to get them the money in time. He negotiates with them, while keeping track on the route of the money. What tells me this is an incredible movie, is that I already knew the plot beforehand; yet I was engrossed by it again. It all leads to a very smart and well done ending that completely destroyed the remakes.

This is also an influential film. The most obvious point from the movie is the color coded names. We all know the other famous film that did the same thing. It also set a new standard for the hijacked vehicle type of movies. This is probably the best one I have ever seen. It should be the blueprint when looking at how to make a good hijack movie. 

I think in the end, fun is the word that best describes the experience of watching Pelham One Two Three. You can't watch it and not be completely sucked into everything that is going on. There's not a whole lot in the sense of action. There's no big explosions. There's shooting, but its sparse. Yet the movie reaches an area of excitement that action films that endlessly blow stuff up, can't. 

Super Reviewer

August 11, 2008
Fantastic pure great fun, perfect cast, a sharp script, funny and smart. Go watch it, now.

Super Reviewer

September 1, 2011
This movie follows the standard hijacking of a moving vehicle plot, and adds the old 70s realism to it. I really liked Matthau in this movie, he was funny and serious at the same time, which is what he's good at of course. But other than him, none of the actors really stood out. I was most of all disappointed by the ending, it's abrupt and ambiguous. Overall it's a pretty good action movie, it just needed more action and a better ending.
Conner R

Super Reviewer

May 29, 2011
I'm not all that surprised that this was a great movie, but it was completely different from anything I was expecting. The most interesting thing, by far, is the refusal to have a main character at all. No one really dominates the storyline; it's the plot that is the soul driving force. Now this might be considered lack of character development for some, but I thought it was perfect for the effect the movie needs. Also, the amazing score is definitely a standout and puts you into the mood for the type of story being told. It's almost the complete opposite of the Tony Scott remake (which I really like as well), but somehow has the same exact plot. It's funny how only a few things can change an entire movie. Robert Shaw, as usual, does a great job as the mysterious villain that we never quite understand. It's definitely a movie that stands out as being of the 70s, but I mean that in the best possible way.

Super Reviewer

May 2, 2008
Tense crime thriller without a lot of needless flash thrown in. Excellent performances from a talented cast and a succinct ending.

Super Reviewer

December 27, 2009
Probably one of the best heist movies and New York films ever made. The score is also pretty bombastic and unbelievably nuts. And one of the best endings I've ever seen.
Lady D

Super Reviewer

January 4, 2009
Having watched the remake first, I would definitely say the film was tweaked for the better and there were small differences between the two, althought the main plot remained the same, I think I preferred the ending to this

Quite curious about the names used in the robbery, different colours etc like Mr Gray, was this where Tarantino got the idea for Reservoir Dogs?
Mark H

Super Reviewer

June 15, 2008
A New York City subway train is hijacked by a group of 4 men and a ransom of 1 million dollars is demanded for the safe return of the 17 passengers. Well plotted, heist movie has a refreshingly simple plot. Story isn't corrupted by the needlessly complicated gimmicks which often hamper modern films, including the 2009 remake. Exciting and suspenseful, action thriller highlighted by engaging performance from Walter Matthau as the Transit Authority policeman. Also exceptional is Robert Shaw, known as "Mr. Blue" in his gang with color code names, a device later used in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. Wonderful location shooting and pulsating score from David Shire enhance the drama considerably.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

October 23, 2009
A little bit dated maybe, a bit naive and unfortunately a little bit racist but this classic 70's thriller has some great characters and what it lacked in action, it made up for in intrigue, dialogue and performance. Future action/thrillers should take note (although a remake isn?t quite what I mean)
Sarah G

Super Reviewer

October 24, 2008
Review coming soon...
Cassandra M

Super Reviewer

August 8, 2009
A group of criminals highjack a subway train and demand $1 million from New York City. Transit cop, Lt. Garber tries to work the situation out, but it seems the gang have planned everything to the second and are running the show. Garber tries to get one step ahead of the gang.

Of course now everyone knows this film because of the supposed connection to Reservoir Dogs, in that the criminals are colour coded instead of names. However even without this cult reference this film deserves to be watched and enjoyed. The story exists on two levels. First we have the setup ? it also acknowledges that it is the usual disaster movie setup?.the majority of characters are listed in the credits as stereotypes instead of people (ie, `the pimp' `the junkie' etc). However this is not a weakness as the thriller story is solid enough to carry the film. It isn't all action but it's very tense and interesting. What really tops it off is the thick vein of humour that runs through it ? mostly coming from Matthau.

Matthau shows how wonderful he is and how he manages to do well in so many different film styles. His world-weary act is great and his Brooklyn accent is pushed to the fore. Roberts Shaw is also good, but has less of a character and is working hard to sound English. The cast is actually deep in faces ? we have an almost unrecognisable Elizondo, Woody Allen actor Tony Roberts, a fantastic Mayor from Wallace and Jerry Stiller (Ben's dad), who doesn't look much older today than he did then!

Overall this is very enjoyable, but it is made by Matthau. The thriller plot stands up well despite the lack of modern fireworks. A cult classic in the making.
Luke B

Super Reviewer

July 30, 2009
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is a tense crime thriller full of original characters and perfect dialogue. I was struck by the naturalism of it all, with hijacker Balsam engaging in a conversation about colds with the conductor. Shaw makes a fantastic villain, he is cold, calm and calculated, but always in control. This makes him one of those characters that you know will be a genuine threat to the our hero. The film is also a time capsule of 70's New York. It's a time of change where racism and sexism are on their way out, but are still present. The film's climax is actually rather anti-climatic. There's no Hollywood hail of bullets and quick cuts. There isn't some big stand-off eiher, I found this a refreshing change from today's films. This is a real gem.

Super Reviewer

April 19, 2008
Gritty, stylish, funny, and very much a product of its time. Does that mean this film is dated? Yeah, but that's not a bad thing, as some of it can still be related to in this modern age. Would they make a film quite like this now a days (in terms of tone, attitude, and how people act, etc)? No, and that's unfortunate. I'm sure the remake is exciting and stylish, but it probably doesn't have the wit and edge that this one does. The performances, direction, and writing are excellent, and the score is a lot of fun. Do yourself a favor and seek out this gritty, influential, suspenseful, and well-made thriller.
Chris G

Super Reviewer

June 9, 2009
In an era where a group of people in grave danger sold tickets The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is small scale compared to stuff like The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, and Airport. The film is practically a real time film about a group of hijackers led by Mr. Blue (the intense Robert Shaw) that take over the New York subway train out of Pelham as 1:23 PM. The hijackers begin a dialogue with transit authority Lt. Garber (Walter Matthau) where they reveal their demands: one million dollars in cash delivered in one hour or they start killing a hostage a minute. The film becomes a race against time to get one step ahead of the hijackers AND to get the money to the train in such a short time period.

Since this film is real time it lends to the thrill of watching everything unfold before us on the screen. It's a confined space throughout the film as we see race after race to save as many hostages as possible. Director Joseph Sargent keeps the action flowing without overwhelming us with too much too fast. The cast is excellent, making you feel like you're watching a bunch of well seasoned New York public servants going through the intense two hours that afternoon. Martin Balsam's role as a fellow hijacker is a surprising turn for the actor and he gives us a great performance that is almost as memorable as Shaw's psychotic Blue.

I guess we could call this a disaster picture. It's just a scaled down version and comparing it to the larger films of the day this one is more thrilling, better acted, and more believable than the others. A great film that combines the disaster genre with the 1970's New York films that everyone enjoys. A classic cops and robbers flick.
Aaron N

Super Reviewer

December 10, 2006
Lt. Rico Patrone: What's up, Z?
Lt. Garber: You won't believe it.
Lt. Rico Patrone: You know me, I'll believe anything.
Lt. Garber: A train has been hijacked.
Lt. Rico Patrone: I don't believe it.

This movie rocked. Its a crime thriller that benefits from the general menace provided by the lead villain met with the engaging efforts done by the police to stop him. It has moments that are effectively thrilling as well as others that are fun. A race against time aspect is met with witty or vulgar banter. Plus, one cannot see the ending coming and the ending is in fact awesome.

Wlater Mattau plays Lt. Garber, a transit officer in New York dealing with one tough day. Robert Shaw as Mr. Blue, is leading a gang of armed criminals with a very thought out plan involving a subway train hijacking. He is demanding one million dollars within an hour, and for every minute after he will kill one of his hostages. This man says what he means, and along with a trigger happy Mr. Gray, played by Hector Elizondo, he will get what he wants or else.

Lt. Garber: Inspector Daniels? She's moving, sir.
Inspector Daniels: Who's moving?
Lt. Garber: What's the matter with everybody? How many hijacked trains have we got around here, anyway?

Meanwhile, Lt. Garber and the men at his disposal, including Jerry Stiller, have to scatter to meet this man's demands within the time he is given. But even if the money is delivered, there is still that matter of what these hardened criminals will do after they get it. How will they escape and what will happen to the hostages?

The fact that this movie is rated R and set in New York goes a long way. The natural way in which all these characters swear is both hilarious and effective. It may sound silly, but this detail grounds the film all the more in reality. The various viewpoints of the characters are effective as well. The fact that some disagree with whether or not to pay the money is an issue that further benefits.

Performance wise, Robert Shaw is fucking awesome as Mr. Blue, the man in charge. He has no humor about the situation, he is cold and calculating. Matthau on the other end is quite good as well. His combination of humor with his attitude towards dealing with the hostage situation is very fun to watch.

I must also mention the score by David Shire. 70s crime film music equals awesome and this is no exception.

Quality flick all around.

Mr. Blue: It is 2:24, Lieutenant, you've got forty-nine minutes.
Lt. Garber: Be reasonable, will you? We're trying to cooperate with you but we can't do anything if you don't give us enough time to work with.
Mr. Blue: Forty-nine minutes.
Lt. Garber: We're dealing with City Hall, for God's sake, you know what a mess of red tape that is?
Mr. Blue: Forty-nine minutes.
Lt. Garber: Look, fella, we know how to tell time as well as you do, but we're not gonna get anywhere if all you do is repeat forty-nine minutes!
Mr. Blue: Forty-*eight* minutes.
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