DIRECTOR: Tony Scott
Tony Scott can hardly be accused of being a light touch as a director. It’s not so much his mark that is left on his films, rather a bloody great boot print! Don’t get me wrong, I like Scott, I like his heavy-handed style at times, and his work on Man On Fire, which I believe to be a film that has being overlooked, was great. He has though, fallen into the Oliver Stone trap of overly directing his films. Not so much blending different cinematography styles together, rather shoe-horning them in, whether they, or we, like it or not.
It’s gotten to point that some scenes in Pelham, particularly the helicopter flight, and the use of speeding and blurring train visuals whenever possible, was a sign that Scott had finally lost it as a visionary, and just liked the look of his own imagination. Sorry mate, but I don’t! The problem with Pelham 123, besides being a remake of the original 1974 almost forgotten thriller, who’s only real legacy is its inspiration to Quentin Tarantino in his naming of his colour codes villans in Reservoir Dogs, is that it seemed to be too faithful to the source. Lets not forget that 70’s cinema was bleak before Star Wars ushered in the 1980’s, and that the original Taking Of Pelham One, Two, Three was no exception.
So you are essentially updating a grim hostage thriller set in a tunnel and a control room whilst giving it modern-day sensibilities and political context, the usual post 9/11 social economic ones. In this case, quite literally nothing more. The plot is quite adequate, the writing is good, the action is excellent and there’s plenty of room here for the characters to shine aswell as for the actors to perform well, which they do but that’s about it.
The story is plodding, and offers nothing substantially different enough to justify a remake. This then forces Scott to fill in the cracks with his arty, ‘thinks it clever’ visual direction which really isn’t as clever as he thinks it is. Overall, I enjoyed watching this almost entirely for Washington, Travolta and yet another decent turn from deliberately “NOT Rudolph Giuliani” Mayor, played by James Galdolfini. But as for the story or its execution, sorry but it was almost boring. Not the right tone for a summer actioner is it?