Even though The Taking of Pelham 123 sucks, I’m still going to kick this off with an honest to Betsy defense of Tony Scott. Tony, brother of Ridley Scott (or is it Sir Ridley Scott?). Ridley Scott has directed some great movies- Alien is his best, although there are those who’ll make a case for Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, or maybe Blackhawk Down.
Ridley is considered a visionary, an A-List director of prestige pictures. Tony Scott, I feel, is looked down upon, sneered at, thought to be the less-talented Scott. The ‘Hack’ Scott, if you will. And yeah- the guy directed Beverly Hills Cop II, Days of Thunder, and Revenge. And yeah again- he hasn’t yet directed anything as good as Alien (although True Romance is pretty great).
Remember this shit?
But I maintain that despite not having yet hit a home run, Tony Scott has a higher batting average than his snazzy older brother. For every great movie Ridley Scott has directed, for every Blade Runner, he’ll give you a Legend. Or a Black Rain. Or… Hannibal. Or Matchstick Men. Or GI Jane. Wait, there’s more… White Squall? OK, so Tony Scott directed Spy Game, but Ridley directed Body of Lies. Both pieces of shit about espionage, but at least Tony Scott’s was an earlier piece of shit about espionage- that has to count for something.
And don’t mention Gladiator. Does anyone still think Gladiator is good? Have you seen it recently? I’ll bet you’d find yourself preferring the Gladiator that ended with Brian Dennehy boxing in a onesie.
And Tony Scott has directed some good, near great stuff! I mentioned True Romance, but also damned good was Crimson Tide, Enemy of the State, The Last Boy Scout, and Top Gun. Hell, I even liked Domino, although he seemed to have learned some camera tricks that he brought with him to Taking of Pelham 123.
Yeah, Pelham isn’t going to win anyone over to my way of thinking. It is a talky, inert little movie that is all gussied up with flashy camera tricks and a hysterical Travolta. Like David Caruso, nothing is less scary to me than Travolta trying to be bad-ass. Didn’t work in Broken Arrow, didn’t work in Face/Off. He does this thing in Pelham where he screams “Mother Fucker” at whomever is on the other end of the walkie talkie, and his voice gets really high and funny-sounding. And I get it, he’s trying to come across as unhinged, but man if he doesn’t come off as really silly. Plus, his moustache? Come on.
I was ready to like this, so it had to work at it to sway me the other way. I was thinking as I was watching it in the early portions- this is the first summer movie of the season that doesn’t deal in robots, aliens, spaceships, the occult, animation, or Zack Galifianikis. This was supposed to be a really well-crafted police thriller. A movie that will play on TBS or Spike this time next year.
I am a sucker for such movies, and Tony Scott directs a lot of them. But like the train of the title, this movie just sits on the tracks. And when it does finally get moving at the end, you know what you get? Car chase.
Fucking car chase. When was the last time a movie that wasn’t a Fast and Furious movie end with a car chase? What more can be done with the car chase? And this car chase is not one of those car chases where you’ll place alongside The Road Warrior or Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Tell you what, the original Taking of Pelham 123, the one with Matthau, ended with a sneeze. I prefer the sneeze.