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New Pelham 123 released

Saturday, 16 January 2010 11:31

“The Taking of Pelham 123” was originally a book written by Morton Freedgood under the pseudonym of John Godey. First made into a film in 1974, starring Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, this is the 2009 remake from director Tony Scott, starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta. The premise is essentially the same, a New York Subway Train – Pelham 123 – is hijacked and brought to a halt between stations with the passengers, driver and conductor taken hostage. The ransom demand originally was £1 million.  Inflation gets to everything, and now it has gone up to £100 million in the new version.

The authorities have one hour to get the money to the hijackers or the hostages will die. The original film had a certain amount of charm to it, despite the tension and the drama, something which is lacking in the remake. Instead the violence and bad language has been ramped up – probably a reflection of the times but somehow there was more menace when you didn’t see the violence and you didn’t hear the chief hostage taker use the “F” word continually.

Taking of Pelham 123

In the original Walter Matthau played Lt Zachary Garber – he was a New York Transit cop and responsible for negotiating with, and catching, the villains. In the new version we see Denzel Washingon as Walter Garber, who is a Metro Transit Authority dispatcher. He is still the main negotiator with the hijackers, but he’s not a cop and has to deal with the NYPD breathing down his neck.

Interestingly, in the original, all of the hijackers were known only by colour coded names. Robert Shaw played “Blue” – in the new version John Travolta plays “Ryder”. As the tension mounts beneath his feet, Garber employs his vast knowledge of the subway system in a battle to outwit Ryder and save the hostages. But there’s one riddle Garber can't solve: even if the thieves get the money, how can they possibly escape?

Because the nature of Garber’s role is different, we don’t get the lovely moment at the end of the film where Walter Matthau finally catches his man, all thanks to a bad cold and a sneeze. In this version we get a thrilling car chase through the streets of New York before justice catches up with Ryder.

As remakes go, this is a pretty good attempt. It’s still a tense and dramatic story with plenty of action. Denzel Washington is perfectly believable as Garber – someone you can have respect for and empathise with. Travolta too makes a brilliant baddie who has been driven to the edge, although one is left with very little sympathy for him, which is how it should be.

Blu-ray and DVD Special Features Include:

  • Commentary featuring Director Tony Scott, Writer Brian Helgeland, and Producer Todd Black
  • “No Time to Lose: The Making of Pelham 1 2 3”
  • “The Third Rail – The NYC Subway System”
  • “Marketing Pelham”
  • “From the Top Down: Stylizing Character”

“The Taking of Pelham 123” is available now on Blu-ray for £24.99 and on DVD for £19.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com



Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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