The Taking of Pelham 123
2009
**½
Director: Tony Scott
Cast: Denzel Washington, John Travolta, James Gandolfini, Victor Gojcaj, John Turturro, Luis Guzman, Ramón Rodríguéz, Robert vataj, Michael Rispoli

When a group of hijackers hold a subway train to a $10M ransom, a demoted train dispatcher finds himself in a psychological sparring match with the gang’s ruthless leader. The cat and mouse game between the two begins as an enjoyable verbal duel, but the wimpy civil servant must inevitably become a man of action. In 1974 Joseph Sargent’s The Taking of Pelham One Two Three turned John Godey’s novel into a subtle thriller. Tony Scott is not and never has been subtle, so his version is a typically hyperkinetic action blockbuster. The story is set in New York City that still nurses the wounds of 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis. Brian Helgeland’s script hints at these recent traumas, but mostly opts to deliver a dumb and formulaic thrill ride (with a terribly flat ending). Denzel Washington’s understated hero and John Travolta’s monotonously manic villain represent two very different schools of acting.