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Review: The Taking of Pelham 1,2,3

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Mark Kermode | 11:00 UK time, Friday, 31 July 2009

The original movie, The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three, was a classic of early '70s neo-noir sensibilities: tight-lipped grown ups exchanging terse dialogue punctuated by compelling moments of controlled violence. What can director Tony Scott, the man who helmed Domino, Man on Fire, The Last Boy Scout, Beverly Hills Cop and not to mention Days of Thunder and Top Gun, possibly add to the mix, do you imagine?

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  • Comment number 1.

    This film looks a bit too long and the wrong subject matter for Tony Scotts talents.
    The correct length for his films is two and half minutes. The right subject matter is 1980s cars, shampoo, razors or any other stuff a corporation wanted to sell us twenty years ago.

  • Comment number 2.

    I so want the unedited version of this review.

    I'll gladly wait for the DVD however. Also wish Denzel Washington would try a few meatier roles, take a few more risks.

  • Comment number 3.

    On the subject of 'shaky cam'. NO MORE PLEASE!

    I am perfectly capable of imagining what the POV of a person in a story might be. I read books. That requires a degree of imagination. If you shake the screen up and down and round and round all you are doing is making me dizzy, making me loose the thread of what is happening and blurring the screen so I cannot judge the quality of what is being presented to me....hmmmm

    This seems to be a trend which started (maybe restarted?) in battle scenes (Gladiator and Saving Private Ryan) to add an element of realism and has now spread into the disease of modern cinema.

    Please stop! I have a headache just thinking about it.

  • Comment number 4.

    i'll never understand why people like denzel washington or his films. he specialises in really boring thrillers, and even the films of his which get a lot of praise, such as american gangster, are really really dull, and have nothing on films of the same ilk, like goodfellas.

  • Comment number 5.

    Okay - I'm just gonna jump ahead before anyone starts. The next person to bash Paul Greengrass gets maimed. I can see what's going on in his films perfectly well and his talents as someone able to reign in the editing process shows up something as incomprehensibly told as Quantum of Solace what it is. Remember, it's not always the 'shaky-cam' that's the problem, it's usually the out of control editing. Despite the soft-stomached naysayers, Bourne Ultimatum rightly won the Best Editing oscar because it's simply a tremendous achievement in the assembly of footage. QoS, Transformers, Man on Fire, Domino are signs of directors running madly out of control of the editing process.

  • Comment number 6.

    TCS - agreed. It's when people use shaky-cam simply because they think it looks cool that there's a problem. I could say the same for Travolta's appalling just-for-men goatee.

  • Comment number 7.

    Just noticed the volume on the iPlayer goes all the way up to eleven.

  • Comment number 8.

    Just sounds like another Tony Scott film to me.

  • Comment number 9.


    Here's what I have to say about that!

    A while back, the topic was raised on pointless, soul-destroying, creativity-mocking retreads such as this flagging the originals. Well, this is the only positive thing Tony Scott's current diabolical liberty has done for me. I absolutely, positively refuse to patronize the local flick house in order to see a factory line celluloid product of this ilk. Having purchased and viddied the original 1,2,3, I was thoroughly impressed, primarily by Robert Shaw's performance. However, I was somewhat disgusted and incredulous to learn that it was helmed by the same chap responsible for...Jaws: The Revenge!!!

    It seems that next up for Ridley's brother is soiling The Warriors. Sigh. Look, unlike his brother, I've never been a huge lover of Tony Scott or his shtick. True Romance is his only offering that I have time for. I recently bought Revenge. Kevin Costner is always reliable in my book (as an actor), yet it had a completely extraneous Top Gun 2 intro, and nosedived thereafter.

    I guess the point being, I have far less respect for Tony Scott now that he is boarding the rehash gravy train.

  • Comment number 10.

    PLEASE upload the uncensored edition!

  • Comment number 11.

    Okay, so there isn't much of a plot line. Nor is it subtle, when people get shot, they get shot brutally until the magaizie is empty.

    That said, it ain't a bad action flick. Good stunts and very claustrophobic. I preferred the remake to the original.

  • Comment number 12.

    It seems like only yesterday we were complaining about people offering their opinions about the "Antichrist" without seeing it and yet it seems like some fairly strong opinions have been given above about "Pelham" or aspects of it and its makers by some people that haven't seen it yet. Go see the film

    Mark is exaggerating the hand held camera shake. As for the profanity, it's not that bad. "Pelham" doesn't come anywhere close to the amount of swearing in "In the Loop" and I believe Mark liked that one.

    My problem with Pelham 123 mark II is the soft ending. It's very weak compared to the original but overall it was a pretty good effort. Travolta is an entertaining villain (not really that shouty for a psychopath IMO).

  • Comment number 13.

    It's a good job this is the Kermode Uncut blog. Otherwise they would've cut out all the swearing.

    Kermode Uncut : Contains mild language.

  • Comment number 14.

    tony scott's remaking the warriors? it's 8:50am and my day's already taken a bad turn. :(

  • Comment number 15.

    It goes from one extreme to another. You have Tony Scott, who's characters shout all the way through the movie, or you have Michael Mann, whos characters mumble all the way through. Even the top of the range home theatre system can't enhance they're mumbling, and you need subtitles to find out whats theyre saying.

  • Comment number 16.

    Why isn't Mark presenting Film (insert year) yet? I'd love to see a new version which mixes set reports, Screening Room and Mark doing pieces to camera in this style. That would be how to make a film programme. Well that or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or Moving Pictures. Actually (with due respect the Film24), why aren't there any decent film review programmes on television any more? It's getting to the point where I'm even becoming nostalgic about MovieWatch.

  • Comment number 17.

    With I should say due respect to Jonathan Ross. But the format of the show stopped working years ago.

  • Comment number 18.

    Well, I did go and see the new Pelham and I wasn't impressed. As with Domino (the worst film of its year, and that in a year which also had Revolver and The Devil's Rejects) there's hardly a shot that's not zoomed, panned, freeze-framed, sped up, slowed down or any combination of the aforementioned. And then the shots are edited down to a quarter of a second in case the audience get bored. Trouble is, it's boring anyway. In addition, I think the swearing is far more prevalent than with the original - here there are three Fs in the opening sentence of dialogue! It has no wit, no class, no character.

    But there's one other factor unmentioned thus far: the utterly forgettable thump-and-honk masquerading as a music score. Back in 1974 they got David Shire to create a groundbreaking new soundtrack of something called "twelve-tone serial funk" for the movie - there's only about 20 minutes of music in there but it works perfectly. This new one's sound-designed to death and it's just dull.

  • Comment number 19.

    Can't say I'm surprised - who asked them to remake it anyway? For the love of all that is holy, Hollywood, stop remaking classics. Their stupid egos seem to make them think they can better something that was great the first time around...

    Yet more overblown, style over substance, tedious filmaking.

    While, on the subject of remakes, Mark, what is your absolute worst remake and best(if such a thing exists)?

  • Comment number 20.

    Mr Kermode,

    Please normalize your video podcasts audio volume. I go from listening to you speak to having my hearing destroyed by blasts of sound effects and soundtrack, its quite jarring.

    Best to preserve the hearing of your audience you know..


  • Comment number 21.

    I'd also like to quickly mention that the sound levels in the video need normalising as well. I was deafened by the sound effects and clips.

    Also I'm sick of the constant use of shaking camera. Often literally. I found the last two Bourne movies literally unwatchable due to getting motion sickness from them. Too many fast cuts and hand held camera do not make a good film. Will there ever be a return to decent paced films?

  • Comment number 22.

    The 'reimagining' is the new sequel and as long as they make money then we will be seeing. Let's all do ourselves a favour and not watch them. Instead watch the new Harry Potter, Moon, Let The Right One In, even Public Enemies. Maybe then Hollywood will wake up and stop putting out garbage.

  • Comment number 23.

    tony scott is a hack-apart from 'enemy of the state' which i liked(it's got gene hackman in it so it must be ok)

    we need a proper film magazine show by the way-10 minutes on the culture show is not enough

    p.s. stuart gordon's 'stuck' is ace thanks for recommending it

  • Comment number 24.

    The original was pure NYC grit; well-scripted, cynical, world-weary and blissfully non-CGI. And a great intro funk soundtrack (atonal blaring horns,offbeat rhythm) by David Shire. Gesundheit!

  • Comment number 25.

    Treat this as radio please - not a lot of stupid noises which i have no idea what are unless i'm forced to look at the image

  • Comment number 26.

    can anyone make a tense action thriller these days without all the stupidly over the top effects? Then again this rash of re-makes (i point blank refuse to call them re-boots, rehashes or re-imaginings) that is infecting hollywood lends itself to this, the only point of making them is to put in all the overblown car chases that ends in massive crashes that people walk away from without apparent injury unless your the poor soul who gets crashed into!

    perhaps this rash of remakes has something to do with the recent writers strike, remakes being essencially already written?

  • Comment number 27.

    Yeah I agree, give Mark Kermode the Film 2010 gig!

    A new presenter for a new decade

  • Comment number 28.

    Nice to see I got in there in ample time for the Greengrass bashing.

    And -

    YES -

    Kermode has to take over The Film Programme. Why? Because unlike certain presenters, he's a damn film critic. I've been saying it for years now. Mr Burns ("Eeexcellent" - sorry) may be too polite to call out Jonathan Ross, but I'm certainly not. Ross is a feeble critic with very few acute observations to offer, and the infamous Sly Stallone incident proves he has no backbone. The Good Doctor may tone himself down somewhat when finally meeting the accused in person, but I have every confidence that if he met a nemesis like, say, Michael Bay, he absolutely would put the charges before him.

    And lest we forget Kermode has the whole package : encyclopaedic knowledge, experience, entertaining, well known enough, and a pretty damn good interviewer too. Plus if the blog and The Culture Show items are anything to go by, he'd also lend a much more interesting visual dynamic than a mouthy git sitting in a chair and introducing generic VT.

    Kermode 2010!

  • Comment number 29.

    And he has better hair than Jonathan Ross

  • Comment number 30.

    Just seen it.

    Starts well, then tails away, to a fairly dull resolution.

    Plot holes aplenty (though I guess that isn't Tony Scott's main concern)

    Is it me, or has Denzel Washington played this exact role before? I'm thinking Inside Man (a film I love, I hasten to add) but isn't this just a riff on that?

    Trailer for District 9 looked good, though.

    PS: yes, Mark for Film 2010, absolutely, for one simple reason.

    Name one genuine plus point in Jonathan Ross doing the show. I can't

  • Comment number 31.

    I get on the New York subway nearly every day and I'm damned if I can ever get internet connection.

    Gandolfini as the mayor of NYC: "Should they be able to get on the internet down there?"
    one of his lackeys: "No, there's absolutely no way"

    Damn straight, Sherlock, but you put it in the movie anyway, didn't you?

    OK, but the movie is still not as bad as some of Mark's lackeys are saying on here.

  • Comment number 32.

    Why is it that Ridley Scott can make great films (Alien, Bladerunner, Thelma and Louise, Gladiator) and yet Tony Scott's films are by and large rubbish (Top Gun, The Last Boy Scout, Domino and now, by the looks of things, this)? Is he simply a better producer than director, or does Ridley have all the talent in the family?

  • Comment number 33.

    Why would you assume that they would be equally accomplished just because they are brothers?

    What about Bill Clinton's brother?
    What about Hillary Clinton's brother?
    What about Jimmy Carter's brother?
    What about Neil Bush?
    What about Donald Nixon?
    What about LBJ's brother?

    It's like saying all the Baldwin brothers should be equally accomplished actors none of whom would need to go on "I'm a celebrity, get me out of here". Or Janet Jackson should be as mega-talented as Michael.
    Or saying that Jack Charlton should have been as great a player as Bobby Charlton or that Bobby Charlton should have been as good a manager as Jack Charlton or that... I think you get the idea.

    [Kingdom of Heaven and Body of Lies were not so hot and in my view worse than "Pelham"]

  • Comment number 34.

    Fair point Antimode, though I still disagree with you on Kingdom of Heaven

  • Comment number 35.

    This is a film of missed opportunities. Miscast leads. Underdeveloped themes. Underwritten scenes. Underwhelming plot. Misjudged aesthetic. And is not a complete waste of time. There is some entertainment value to be had here, there is some joy to be gleaned from the performances, and there are moments of high tension that will grip an audience, even if it isn't the best at doing what it does.

  • Comment number 36.

    I thought this film was a load of rubbish. To my surprise Gandolfini was worse than Travolta.

    I found it really funny the way it turned out that the whole heist was about manipulating the stock market to cash in, but they don't show exactly HOW Travolta's character achieves this. He just does the heist, and then his bank account goes from $10mil to $300mil.

    Surely if the stock market is going down, nobody is making money?

  • Comment number 37.

    'To create is divine, to reproduce is human.' Man Ray.

    'To create is divine, to reproduce is human, to re-imagine 'The Taking of Pelham 123' is just plain silly!' Tintin Quarantino.

  • Comment number 38.

    If you thought John Travolta was shouty in this, wait till you see District 9. The main character is like a castrato John Cleese. Now that's what I call shouty.

  • Comment number 39.

    lol denzel got fatter than travolta in this! lmao

  • Comment number 40.

    Love it. Saw the remake a few months back, and thought it was pretty good for modern type thrillers.

    Watched this blog after and then i saw the original was on tv over the weekend so watched it. The openning theme was typical late sixties/early seventies Schifrin-esque jazz theme.

    As for the plot I was disappointered (or I think they did a good rewrite for the remake. I really liked the tension between Garber and the Hijacker in the remake).

    It made me think how styles and what is expected from a film have changed (i.e. big bang car crash, big shooting scenes, shakey camera etc.) I've always wondered how Bullitt would be if it was remade.

    And i wonder how many actually got the Gesundheit reference?


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