Friday, June 12, 2009

The Taking Pelham 123

Directed by Tony Scott
Written by Brian Helgeland
Starring  Denzel Washington, John Travolta, and John Turturro

I don't like the word hate because it is an absolute. I feel like when I use the word hate it's like putting a period at the end of a sentence. I avoid it so much that I'm having a hard time trying to assign it to a reasonable example. 

As a result I spent a great deal of my time viewing The Taking of Pelham 123 trying to describe my feeling for it without using the word hate. In the end I settled on severely disliked. I severely disliked nearly everything about this film and I severely dislike the direction of Tony Scott. When I say I severely dislike the direction of Tony Scott I don't just mean in this film I mean in nearly every film he has ever directed. 

The guy is a hack. I haven't used that word to publicly describe an artist before but I will go on record as saying that Tony Scott is a hack. His quick cuts and alternations between slow motion and regular speed are not interesting they are chaotic, vapid, and offensive. The opening of this film is set to Jay-Z's "99 Problems" for no other reason then it sounds cool and he can set the editing to the beat of the song. If he wants to do that then he should go direct music videos.

As for the story of the film it's pretty basic. To be honest I could name any number of movies that have the same exact plot as this one. Basically a guy named Ryder played by John Travolta has taken a subway car full of people hostage and it's up to a normal guy named Garber, played by Denzel Washington to deal with him. Garber has to save all the people on the subway car while battling wits with Ryder and the bureaucrats who think they know how to better handle the situation. Of course, because Garber and Ryder have developed a relationship only, I just bored myself in summarizing the plot. Let me make it easy on all of us by simply saying you have seen this movie before, many many times before. You can even guess, fairly early on, which hostages are going to die. 

John Travolta had me groaning out loud at his delivery of cliche' hostage movie villain lines for about 45 minutes before I became aware. Who ever designed his costume, did his make up, and cut his hair made sure we knew he was the villain from scene one. He has a weird goatee and sideburns that are straight out of Steven Segal movie in 1995. He has a thug tattoo on neck that screams bad guy. Is John Travolta having fun in this role? Without a doubt, he's like a ten year old playing the bad guy in his backyard and he has the same level of talent. 

I said that I severely disliked nearly everything in this film. The one exception would be when Garber calls his wife on the phone to tell her he is about to go meet exchange the hostages for money. She tells him that he has to do whatever he has to do but to bring home the milk. He says he won't get a gallon but he will get half a gallon. This is a nice and refreshing scene in the midst of the rest of the mess. Luckily, it's also in the preview so you don't have to spend $10 to enjoy it.

At the end of the day I was left thinking that it is financially irresponsible to let Tony Scott direct a movie in the middle of an economic crisis. This movie cost millions of dollars and it is a complete waste. 

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