Mr. Movie

'Taking of Pelham 123' doesn't take

An industry out of ideas does another remake.

Dipping back to 1974, director Tony Scott (Déjà vu, Man on Fire) repackages the so-so story of The Taking of Pelham 123 with two aging but still popular stars and tweaks the plot with a modern spin.

-- Trailer, times, theaters.

-- Read The Critic of Pure Reason's review.

Denzel Washington is Walter Garber, an on probation subway system honcho accused of taking a bribe. He’s on duty when John Travolta’s Ryder and his batch of baddies hijack a New York City subway train. Sitting in an unreachable, easy to defend section of track, they threaten to kill hostages one at a time if a trainload of money isn’t brought to them in an hour.

Unfortunately, the hour isn’t in real time and one hour gets dragged into two.

Garber is in dispatch central and Ryder in the cab of the train. You are the omnipresent fly on the wall privy to both ends of their well-edited give and take conversation. Sometimes it’s tense, sometimes it’s warm and human, but it’s never boring. Credit Washington who does cool, calm and collected better than anyone and Travolta’s skill at over-the-top.

Though Scott adds some missing dimensions to his version, a copy is never as crisp and clear as the original. When the original is flawed and smeary, the copy can be indecipherable.

Like the original, The Taking of Pelham 123 struggles. The commandeered plot is like the film’s train. When you first get on board it just sits on the track. Once the story begins moving, you can predict each stop along the route.

Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars

Rated R for mature themes, language and violence. It opens Friday, June 12 at Regal’s Columbia Mall 8 and at the Fairchild Cinemas 12.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.