Saturday Silliness - Movie Review - The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
No, not that one.
Everyone and their brother is doing reviews of Tony Scott's new summer blockbuster, starring John Travolta and Denzel Washington. Alas, in this, the Golden Age of the Remake, we have yet another entry, it seems.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three has actually been remade twice. In 1998, there was a made-for-TV movie starting Vincent "Private Pyle" D'onofrio and Edward James "So say we all!" Olmos. That film was very faithful to the original novel by John Godey.
The 1974 film by Joseph "Don't blame me for Jaws: The Revenge" Sargent is a cult classic, and one of the best real New York films of the 70's. For those of you under the age of, say, thirty, this film gives a very realistic look at what the Big Apple was like pre Rudolph Guliani.
The film stars a powerhouse of character actors: Walter Matthiau, Robert Shaw, Hector Elizondo, Martin Balsam, Jerry Stiller, Earl Hindman and Dick O'Neill. The fact that all of these guys were in the same film is a credit to the era the film was made in.
This film is all man. There are no touchy-feeley romantic subplots, no "deus-ex-machina" aliens or machines to save the day, no ridiculous fights. Only two men, relentlessly matching wits with one another over a radio; one cold and cunning, the other experienced and world-weary.
Robert Shaw brings all of his "you go in the cage, cage goes in the water. Shark's in the water..." Quint-coldness and efficiency to the part of Mister Blue, the mastermind behind the caper. (Yeah, in the 70s, this was a "caper.") Matthiau mopes along with some quick wit, aided by some of the best ethnic stereotypes in film history, especially the Japanese businessmen. Oh, how funny was the age before political correctness! And the guys hijacking the train are asking for a Dr. Evil-like one million dollars!
24 owes a lot to this film: Sargent edited it so that it takes place in real time. This, combined with the gritty feeling of the film, the dark tone of the humor, and the short-fused portrayal of Mister Grey by Elizondo, give the film a sense of pounding suspense and realism.
I dont' imagine that you'll find this film at the local Redbox. You'll have to scoot on down to Blockbuster, or maybe the local public library. It's worth the effort, though. (Just don't watch it with the kiddies - there's a bit of language in it. ) Based on the reviews coming in for the Tony Scott film, this classic will be remembered long after that film has been forgotten. (Or, you can just enjoy the trailer:)