Noisy retooling of the 1970s’ heist classic with Denzel Washington and John Travolta

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Score 3

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The Taking Of Pelham 1 2 3

FILM REVIEW: THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1 2 3
Directed by Tony Scott
Starring Denzel Washington, John Travolta, James Gandolfini, John Turturro


***

Quentin Tarantino borrowed the idea of colour-coded criminals from Joseph Sargent’s 1974 original, which starred Walter Matthau as a crumpled Transit Authority cop facing the hijack of a New York subway train by an argumentative gang of half-competent crooks. Tony Scott’s remake has more energy and less charm, while also being infected with the Tarantino virus, via the casting of John Travolta as the moustachioed hijacker, duelling with Denzel Washington’s train controller.

Washington is predictably excellent, but Travolta has trouble balancing his character’s psychosis with his urge to play for laughs. Scott’s direction of the action is typically energetic, with car crashes, balletic shoot-outs, and a 24-ish race against the clock played out to a thumping beat. The film thrills like a super-saturated fairground ride, but Scott ducks the question of post -9/11 terror, and fails to deliver on a metaphorical level.

ALASTAIR McKAY