Pelham 123 is a train. It is taken by a group of bad guys led by Ryder (John Travolta) with the aim of… I can’t remember. Money was involved. Then there was some political hubbub. Then some issues arose from Ryder’s past.
Frankly, once John Travolta showed his neck tattoos and metallic teeth and tried to fool me into thinking he had an edgy side by swearing and killing innocents, I checked out faster than a straight masseuse who saw Travolta’s name next on the schedule…
Not even Denzel trying his long distance The Bone Collector shtick – literally phoning it in again from the control centre – could regain the lost credibility that Travolta’s miscasting created.
That said, director Tony Scott never let an absence of assets or logic prevent him from cramming in unnecessary action sequences. In one scene a car hurtles through busy city traffic ignoring all safety and laws, while both good and bad guys openly ponder why a helicopter wouldn’t be a better alternative. Another scene requires a timely (and entirely unlikely) rat bite to exist.
Again Tony Scott – like Walter Hill before him – refuses to let such things trouble him. He ignores Travolta’s inane overacting and the thin story and seeks to patch it over with gunfire, explosions and collisions. I imagine this is the same thought process as Pink has in coming up with a new concert routine; look my songs aren’t great and I don’t have too many of them, maybe I can distract people with a trapeze thing?
To some these bells and whistles are enough, but The Taking of Pelham 123 is as linear and drab as the parallel rails that the train is trapped on, and as eventful and memorable.
Final Rating – 5 / 10. Tony Scott tends to make things better than they should be. He also seemed to learn from his mistakes, as evidenced by the vastly superior train based film Unstoppable arriving only a year after this mess…