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Reviews: The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) and Man on Fire (2004)

January 4th, 2010 Comments off

The real question is if The Taking of Pelham 123 can top scoring a 1, 2 or 3 in my 1 to 10 rating scale.

The Aughts will be remembered as a decade of many things.  There were tremendous periods of unrest in the political and economic spheres.  There were wars in the geopolitical realm.  There was the promotion of tabloid culture and reality TV.  In cinemaplexes across the nation, it was the decade of the remake.  This post is going to take a look back at two remakes teaming up a director and his odeon hero, both based derivatively on novels.

The first of the two remakes, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, is one I’m not terribly upbeat on.  Usually I’m able to find at least a few redeeming characteristics in just about every movie.  You expect that finding bright spots wouldn’t be difficult in a flick with a standout cast featuring star power like big screen superstar Denzel Washington, TV heavyweight James Gandolfini, awkward-king John Tuturro and Scientology Xenu John Travolta.  Well, it was darn hard to find any good in there.

The only thing that really got me up for this movie is that it reunited director Tony Scott with Denzel Washington, who he cast in the eminently awesome 2004 film Man on Fire, our second review here.

Let’s start with the bad.  Pelham 123 is a remake of a 1974 heist movie starring Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw as two of four hijackers taking a green line local subway.  Jerry Stiller and Hector Elizondo also starred in the original, which was pretty well replicated by the remake as far as plot goes.  The one notable aspect of the original is that it introduced the concept of the color coded villain: the four hijackers are Messrs. Blue, Green, Brown and Gray… the colors that later inspired the criminals in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.

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