I am not here to label director Tony Scott a complete hack—because he's not. He directed The Hunger, which I liked, and Top Gun, which I liked, and True Romance, which I liked, and Crimson Tide, which I also liked. On the other hand, he directed Days of Thunder (didn't like), Déjà Vu (didn't like), Man on Fire (didn't like), and all those other films he's directed (many of which I haven't seen, but I'm fairly positive I wouldn't like). What's worse, he continues to drag poor Denzel Washington into his steaming pile of projects. Did I just say, "Poor Denzel?" I meant to say, "Poor ME!" Sorry, but I'm the one who keeps getting tricked into attending Scott's visions of hyperactive mediocrity thanks to the wholly amazing Denzel Washington—who unbelievably keeps agreeing to come along for Scott's crappy rides.
That's right—we've been burned once again by this unholy pairing, thanks to the remake of 1974's gritty classic The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (originally starring Walter Matthau). While somewhat different, the basic mechanics of these two Pelhams are similar enough: A gang of hijackers take over a New York subway car and give authorities one hour to deliver the ransom before they begin plugging hostages. In the new version, Washington plays regular Joe/transit dispatcher Walter Garber, who finds himself in the uncomfortable position of having to bargain for passengers' lives with hijacker Ryder (John Travolta, dressed like a bear at any leather bar you'd care to imagine).
Garber and Ryder take turns playing "priest and confessor," and a few unsurprising plot twists later, Garber must make the difficult but oh-so-obvious decision to confront the villain face to face—admittedly, not an easy task, since Travolta is so laughably unbelievable in his role. Naturally, Washington is excellent, which makes this film all the more infuriating. While Washington's gamely attempting to mine every ounce of humanity from his character, director Scott is busy trotting out every heavy-handed cinematic trick in the book, including stutter edits, manipulative music, and the always vomit-inducing "circling camera." One thing you can say about Tony Scott: He doesn't allow you to get bored. He also doesn't allow you to become emotionally connected to his films.