The Taking of Pelham (1974/2009)

D: Joseph Sargent
MGM/Palomar/Palladium (Gabriel Katzka & Edgar J. Scherick)
US 1974
104 mins


W: Peter Stone [based on the novel by John Godey]
DP: Owen Roizman
Ed: Jerry Greenberg & Robert Q. Lovett
Mus: David Shire

Walter Matthau (Lt. Garber), Robert Shaw (Blue), Martin Balsam (Green), Hector Elizondo (Grey), Earl Hindman (Brown), James Broderick (Denny Doyle)

This 1974 thriller is possibly the most important step into what has become a modern day action film.
A New York subway train is hijacked by a group of criminals who only refer to each other by the colour of the hats they're each wearing. Their plot is to hold the group of passengers to ransom for $1 million. 
Though their crime seems to have been meticulously planned, the one person they hadn't factored upon was grizzled transit cop, Lt. Garber, who doesn't want the bad guys to get away with it on his watch.
Considering the age of the film, the action scenes are particularly well directed and edited. The most surprising thing is that the film didn't do particularly well at the worldwide box office, only being successful in the cities around the globe which had underground railroads and virtually ignored everywhere else.
A remake materialised in 2009, which may have gathered more pennies, but the standard of filmmaking was already pretty high with this original film.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

D: Tony Scott
Columbia/MGM/Relativity Media (Tony Scott, Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal & Steve Tisch)
US 2009
106 mins


W: Brian Helgeland [based on the novel by John Godey]
DP: Tobias Schliessler 
Ed: Chris Lebenzon
Mus: Harry Gregson-Williams

Denzel Washington (Walter Garber), John Travolta (Ryder), John Turturro (Camonetti), James Gandolfini (The Mayor), Luis Guzman (Phil Ramos)

Remake of the 1974 crime thriller which gets garbled up in the Hollywood machine until it's virtually unrecognisable from its original source.
The bare bones of the plot are the same, with a group of criminals hijacking a New York City subway train to ransom, but that is where the similarities end. The original film had a calculated crime masterminded by a well-spoken group of businessmen, in this remake the crime is executed by batshit crazy gangsters headed by a man who puts revenge above the motive of monetary gain. 
With Tony Scott helming, we're also treated to car chases, frenetic editing and sound design cranked up to 11 for yet another Die Hard clone. Witty one-liners are also set aside for superfluous subplots and easy humour aimed at the lower common denominator.
Denzel Washington is miscast as the everyday man up against it, but his performance is incredibly believable in contrast to John Travolta's ridiculously OTT turn as the chief villain.
Brainless entertainment, but another example of a remake which has no right to exist.

John Travolta in The Taking of Pelham 123
John Travolta in The Taking of Pelham 123