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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

The Taking of Pelham 123


Starring: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, John Turturro and Luis Guzman
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 15
Available 11 January 2010

Walter Garber is a New York City subway dispatcher whose ordinary day is thrown into chaos by an audacious crime: the hijacking of a subway train. Ryder, the criminal mastermind behind the hijacking and leader of a highly-armed gang of four, threatens to execute the train’s passengers unless a large ransom is paid within one hour. 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...?

The plot to The Taking of Pelham 123 is so paper thin that even the synopsis (above) taken from the press release tries to create mystery where there is none. Firstly Garber doesn't employ his knowledge of the subway system in a battle to outwit Ryder (not really), nor does he wonder how the thieves can escape once they get the money.

In fact so shallow is the plot that if you watch the first trailer included in the Marketing Pelham featurette and then watch the last 10 minutes of the movie you'll pretty much have the whole movie down.

While not a truly awful film, the main problem here is that the characters are about as two-dimensional as you can get. The lack of any background to them means that you don't really care what happens to anyone. Now, I know this is designed so that you just see everyone at their workplace, going about their daily business, before all hell breaks loose, but it would have been more interesting to have had a little more background on Ryder and why he turned from a fraudster into a cold blooded killer.

There's also a particularly pointless action sequence as the hostage negotiators attempt to get the cash to the drop off point. This results in several cars crashing and a motorcycle cop flying over the bonnet of a car. Then someone points out (no doubt in a bid to silence any nagging voices in the audience) that it would have been quicker to get a helicopter to drop off the ransom money. This makes New York's finest look like total idiots - which I'm sure was never the intention. It's almost as though the studio took a look at a rough cut of the movie and said: "There's no action in this film! We've got to have action!" And away went the writers and stitched this rather pointless scene into the movie.

We also never discover whether Garber did take the bribe he's under investigation for. While he tells Ryder he did, he has no other option as a hostage would have been killed if he'd continued to claim he was innocent. And later, when the two are alone and he continues to admit he took the bribe, again this could have been to keep on Ryder's good side.

Extras include the usual BD Live and Cinechat features. There are two audio commentaries (one with director Tony Scott and another with writer Brian Helgeland and producer Todd Black); No Time to Lose: The Making of Pelham 123 (30 min, 25 second behind the scenes featurette); The Third Rail: New York Underground (16 min, 15 sec look at the problems of filming in the underground. It was interesting to learn that they had to go on a course to prepare them for the dangers of filming in the underground system); From the Top Down: Stylising Hair and Character with Danny Moumdjian (5 min, 17 sec look at the importance of characters haircuts); Marketing Pelham (7 min, 4 sec collection of Pelham 123 trailers); trailers for other movies; and the Movie IQ interactive database that can be accessed while watching the movie.

Overall The Taking of Pelham 123 is a bit of a disappointment.


Darren Rea

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