I've been excited for this movie since I first saw the trailer. As some of you know, I'm a big fan of heist films. There's no bank involved here, but it's a hostage film, which falls in the same category for me. In the end, it all comes down to "how are they going to get away with it?" This one is about Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), a subway dispatcher with a shaky past, who starts seeing something going on with one of the trains, Pelham 123. Turns out that the train is hijacked by Ryder (John Travolta) and his crew (Luis Guzman being the biggest name). They want 10 million dollars in one hour, or Ryder will kill a hostage every minute they're late. They bring in the hostage negotiator, Camonetti (John Turturro), and they contact the mayor (James Gandolfini). I'm sure you know the drill from there.

Is the movie exciting? Yes. Does it have action and suspense? More suspense than action, but yes. Is there comedy? A bit. All in all, the movie is very entertaining. It's no Inside Man, but it's very good. In fact, I think for the first time in my life, I'm actually agreeing with Roger Ebert: “Nobody gets terrifically worked up, except the special-effects people. Oh, John Travolta is angry and Denzel Washington is determined, but you don't sense passion in the performances.” It's just another character that Denzel has done a hundred times. He does it well because he should be used to it by now. I did like Travolta, too. It's like a more over-the-top and angry version of Vince Vega. The movie isn't all action as the trailers make it out to be. A lot of it is vocal interaction and relationship building between Denzel and Travolta, which is the greatest strength of the film.

You'll probably be hearing a lot about the cinematography of the film, which can best be described as frenetic. The movie is very stylistic as it plays with the speed of movement (no abusive slo-mo... it works more with blurry). For the most part it works. There were only one or two times when I really thought "Okay, was doing it right here necessary?"

There's really not much to hate or even dislike about the film. It's done well, overall. Two of my three biggest issues are similarly related. One deals with a possible plot hole (that they bring up in the film, actually) about why they had to get cars to deliver the money all the way across New York. Why? Well, to have a car driving sequence. And this is the second issue. That had to be one of the lamest attempts at a car-fueled adrenaline rush ever. You know all those car crashes and whatnot from the trailers? It's not really during any car chase. It's basically from a couple stupid drivers getting in the way after the street should already have been cleared by police. It's like "Now that we have them driving the money across the city, how can we make it more exciting? I know, toss in some cars that shouldn't be there."

The third biggest issue is the ending, which was a bit too cheesy for my tastes, especially for a "heist" film. Heist films are supposed to be cool, not cheesy. I can't really say what it is, as that's spoiler territory, but I'll leave it at that.

This is a lot of negative, but I honestly really liked the movie. These things are only small portions of the film. The actors aren't exactly phoning in their performances (especially Travolta). The story is good, though there wasn't that last big POW! that most heist films like to give, which I think is part of what brings it down a notch or two. There's no real twist. Everything that should be a surprise, you see coming a mile away. And when it's all said and done, it (being whatever big plot device occurs) never really amounts to a whole lot. In other words, the movie had the potential of a 5, but instead falls at about a 4.

A Keanu 'Whoa'


  1. Tsk, tsk - went to see this tonight, partially on the strength of your rating.

    There should have been LESS action, or at least fewer attempts to make it seem action-y. The "frenetic cinematography" (as you kindly put it) during the scenes with the car/motorcycles (and others) was downright annoying as hell. Mrs. Fletch said it was as though Scott was trying to make two movies, one for adults with the two of them talking and the drama on the train, and another with all the lame wannabe action.

    It killed it for me, too.

  2. Sorry, Fletch! I guess I'm just easily amused. I'm really one of the few who at least partially enjoyed this movie.

    Thinking back, I think I might have rated it one too high (for me, anyway), but oh well. We all do that sometimes, right?

    But I agree with you on fewer attempts at action, such as the whole 'drive across New York' scene with forced car crashes (which is what I said in my review).


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