Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Taking Of Pelham 123

Tony Scott and Denzel Washington team up again for this 2009 remake of people holding an underground train hostage. Will they get away with it or is it as easy as 123?

I know this film was released last year but I saw it on my Sky + Anytime and thought I'd comment on how bloody awful it is. Not only that but I wanted to use it as an example of how crap Tony Scott is as a director.

For those who don't know, Tony Scott is Ridley's brother and is better known for making stylised action films that would have been better suited in straight-to-video 90's flicks, but because of his name, the stars he's able to get and his budget, they are just on a grander scale. Okay, so the guy might have a couple of aces up his sleeves, he did do a good job on True Romance and people would crucify me for saying that the director of Top Gun is crap, but I have to say out of a great number of films he has made, law of averages means you got to have a couple of good ones right? His mid-shot, sleek, fast cuts with what seems to be exactly the same colour palette and a score that verges on embarrassing feels as if you are watching the action from afar, even when there are close-ups you never feel like you are there living in the action, but that you are a voyeur (which essentially you are) that has no investment in the characters. His cheesy, stale and repetitive directing can be seen a mile off; you know you're watching a Tony Scott film from the opening credits and you know it will be ridiculous. It's completely passive and uninspiring film-making that no-one should be proud of. The Taking Of Pelham 123 is no exception.

Denzel Washington plays a transport worker that has to deal with the Pelham 123 train that has suddenly stopped. What's happened is that Travolta has got some goons together and taken it over asking for a $10 million ransom or he starts killing people. After a while, Travolta's real motive becomes clear as the cops delve into his history but by then Denzel is thick into the action. Kind of.

The problem is that most of the film is either in the transport room or on the train which makes for quite a boring set-up, if the film was a slower, murkier affair then the tension and result would have been far greater. Instead Travolta's OTT hammy bad guy acting makes it feel like you're watching a cartoon. The man can't do a maniac, he couldn't really do it with Swordfish, he couldn't really do it in Face/Off and when he starts swearing and shooting people in this, it feels completely lame and unthreatening. Travolta can't just do any kind of role, he's not that kind of actor, he needs to learn the humility he picked up with Pulp Fiction as what was essentially a bumbling gangster role, he needs to be cast right, not like this.

But then, I feel like Denzel might perhaps be the most overrated actor in Hollywood. You could take him in any part, swap it with another part he's played and get the same result. The man is bland - to the point where he bores me. I can imagine he is just a boring person and I cannot see the appeal at all. So with two leading actors not being very good in a film directed by a poor director, I think you know what you will end up getting.

Even for a film with someone who shoots people indiscrimately and completely irresponsibly, with cars racing around to get the money dropped off in time and tempers flaring, it remains quite a boring heist. There's little nods to the political and social climate of last year, mainly the war and the economy, but really it's just drivvle to put it into the context of today to stop it being a carbon copy of the original.

Overall, it was 90 minutes of action that kept me watching, but really I wasn't bothered about what would happen. It felt lazy and OTT and ridiculous. But then, this is a Tony Scott film. His brother made Alien and Blade Runner don't you know.

Rating: 4/10

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