Posted by: Dr P | August 30, 2009

Taking of Pelham 123

I was chatting to number 1 fan Kate the other day and we had the most bizarre conversation about movies set on public transport – we couldn’t decide whether the underground featured in Speed (maybe, although all I can remember about that is Sandra Bullock being hot and Dennis Hopper playing himself as a psycho) or Speed 2 (I ruled that out on the grounds of it being about a boat and utter tosh). We eventually concluded it was probably Speed 3. Having said that, I’m not sure that even exists. Did they continue with a series of straight to DVD releases? If so, will Speed 6 feature Dennis Hopper hijacking space hoppers and making people line them up in disabled parking spaces before they explode?

Against that backdrop, I went to see Pelham 123 last Saturday night – it’s a remake of course, and promised much with the high octane cast of my dance idol John Travolta and Denzel Washington. Denzel is by some distance my favourite actor named after an American state, although I do have a bit of a thing for Hannah Montana. Incidentally, that reminds me of a pub quiz question in which we had to name all 50 US states. We managed 49 relatively easily and then thought about phoning up my friend Alan’s girlfriend who is a bit of a geography buff. “Tell you what, Julie is good on geography. Can’t think of the name of that last state … Al ask her”.

The premise is simple. Travolta and his associates hijack a NY subway train and basically hold out for a ransom of ten million dollars. Denzel is the man who controls that section of track and is therefore the man with whom the hijacker builds a rapport. With a couple dozen hostages on board and the transport network grinding to a halt, the situation is escalating constantly. The mayor gets involved and all concerned try and figure out the hostage takers motives, whether it’s a terrorism situation, and just why on earth some lad on the train has still got a wireless connection to his girlfriend’s webcam … and even more remarkably why she doesn’t inform the police but instead screeches repeatedly into his headset to tell her he loves her (despite being surrounded by gun toting lunatics). Bloody women!

As the situation develops, the snipers move into place, the mayor is summoned to control centre, and with just an hour to meet the 10 million dollar demands, things get fraught. A police negotiator is called in, ostensibly to allow me to use the word “ostensibly” in this review, and his smug arrogance that he will resolve the situation backfires in about 45 seconds, as his sliminess causes Travolta to execute the train driver. Ha! That’ll teach ’em.

The movie was quite gripping at this point, and the next phase sees Denzel personally summoned down to the tracks to hand over the wheelbarrow of money with the last few minutes ticking away. He agrees to do it (what a hero!), but then Travolta pulls a fast one, duping the system into thinking he’s set the train off while actually disembarking and making a run for it. Denzel has been sneaked a weapon and escapes, but instead of doing what you actually would and heading home to his family, he decides to play th ehero and pursue Travolta. Actors!

As the finale unfolds, it all gets a bit anti-climactic and the last 20 minutes is a bit of a let down, at least I thought so. Travolta is excellent as the psycho hostage taker – a role which he plays with some aplomb. He conveys just the right level of nuttiness, and manfully resists the urge to pop on his disco pants and let us see some moves. Shame. That might just have amped up the film to the next level.

It was about this point I started to drift off and wonder if they’d actually have been better doing a remake and calling it Pelham 321. They could have set it on the London underground and have Ted Rogers and a whole host of people dressed up as Dusty Bin hijack a tube train, and make the good guys decipher a whole load of random and bizarre clues in order to work out their demands! Apologies if I’ve lost any Americans at this point … 321 was a UK TV gameshow from the 80s which … oh go and google it!

After the movie I headed into Bury for a random and totally ace night with Muzza and Alexis, made some new friends, and gave the evening the fabulous camp dance routines it so sorely needed. Shamooooooooonnnnn (that’s for Lloydy, who I don’t think is even in this review group!!).


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