The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009): A Crash Course in Lazy Screenwriting

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Starring: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Frank Wood, James Gandolfini, Ramon Rodriguez, Victor Gojcaj, Robert Vataj, Michael Rispoli, Jason Butler Harner, Brian Haley, and Aunjanue Ellis.

Directed by: Tony Scott.

The Taking of Pelham 123, this reincarnation of the original 1974 film directed by Tony Scott, kicks off on the right foot during the beginning and middle parts but then falls apart due to some of the worst script decisions imaginable. Denzel Washington plays the heroic MTA dispatch operator this time around while John Travolta plays the lead baddie in charge of the train hijacking.

Both Denzel Washington and John Travolta deliver top notch performances for what they are given to work with although Travolta sometimes feels a bit too generic and boarders a little on the loud side. Don’t get me wrong, screaming villains are fine but this sounds like something that was written for Samuel L. Jackson (now I’m starting to get flashbacks of The Negotiator). It seems like John Travolta gets typecast a lot for these type of roles (Battlefield Earth and Swordfish to name a couple) with the exception of Face/Off. James Gandolfini does an excellent job of portraying the Mayor of New York City, it’s nice to see how talented this guy is when he’s not in the shoes of Tony Soprano, Gandolfini delivers one of the best performances in the film.

Both the passengers and Travolta’s four man crew of hijackers almost get little to no attention nor detail whatsoever outside of the fact they are all generic stereotypes. Luis Guzman…


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