Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three Remake, or...God Dammit, Tony Scott. (2009)

Son of a bitch, someone needs to give Tony Scott a tri-pod. You know, that thing cameras sit on top of. To keep it still. So you your movie doesn't look like a YouTube video that's having trouble loading. Also, at one point early on in the movie, I counted the seconds between cuts. Want to guess the length of the longest one? I'll give you four seconds. Why? Because that's the answer. So what did we learn from this information? Basically, when Tony Scott is on, he's fucking ON. But when he's off, you're pretty much wasting your money and time. It's a shame, really.

The more I think about this fucking thing, the more unnecessary it becomes. Why remake this? If the filmmaker has nothing over and above to add to the experience, then he/she has no business even attempting it. It's only cheapened, and in the case of Pelham, the cheapening comes in two different flavors. The first being Scott's stubborn reliance on jump-cuts and dizzying 360-degree panning shots of someone talking. Do I really need to see all around someone when they're just standing there speaking? No, I don't and neither does anyone else. I can think of maybe a handful of times when it would be appropriate. None of those scenarios rear their heads in this movie, so it just comes off as stupid. The second being the addition of truly sappy situations that only served to make me secretly throw up behind my stadium seating, and then proceed to look at my puke dribbling down the steps. It's more entertaining than the shit that was added in the film, so in my book, that was a bonus. I'll even give you the most glaring example. It's a spoiler, but if you've seen the original, you already know how the movie turns out. ****SPOILER**** THE BAD GUYS LOSE. So with that out of the way, I can describe this lame shit for you.

Denzel is a transit guy, and you'll have to excuse me if I can't remember his job title. I don't work for public transit, so I don't really give a shit. He's the guy that talks to trains on a microphone. Or at least he is when the movie starts because he's under investigation for taking bribes. He's fallen on the totem pole, and we as an audience are made painfully aware of this. Of course, when he gets the call from the hijackers, you automatically know at some point he'll be offered a bribe. Does Denzel take it? Fuck no. You're an idiot if you thought otherwise. Or slow. Either way, he has to allow the hostage negotiator to send a team of FBI agents or whatever the fuck to his house to search it and make sure he's not in league with the criminals. Denzel then gets a call from his wife, wondering what the hell is going on. He tells her it's just part of the process, and that he's talking to the terrorists. Later on, he tells her that he has to go meet them in person, to which his wife's reply is, and I'm paraphrasing, but this shit is really in there, "you better come home, because we need milk. Don't forget the milk." The object of the conversation being Denzel making it out alive and bringing home the milk to his poor, distraught wife. BOO-FUCKING-HOO. Guess what the last scene in the god damn movie is? HE BRINGS HOME THE FUCKING MILK. That's how you chart suspense if you're a movie exec. Oh, and fuck you, movie exec.

If you've read this far, you'll have noticed I'm not going too much into the nuts and bolts of the film, save for a couple of items. That's because all you need to see is the original with Robert Shaw and Walter Matthau. Really, that's all you need. It's superior in every conceivable way. The beauty of the original is its simplicity. It's pretty much just Matthau and Shaw talking. Sure, things happen around them, but they're the crux of the story. It's sort of the same in the remake, but the extraneous bullshit really takes the shine away from the stars. Case in point - Travolta. He excels at hamming it up as a bad guy. Broken Arrow and Face/Off come to mind. In Pelham, he does ham it up quite a bit, but it's restrained when compared to the two films I just mentioned. He's a little more nuanced, and more convincing as an actual person. The hamminess is still present, but he strikes a great balance between believability and bad guy over-the-top evil.

Denzel is good, as per usual, and I did think it was a nice touch to make him more of an every-man instead of the cop or negotiator. In one scene, a cop asks him if he's ever handled a gun, to which Denzel answers "no." That doesn't happen very often in a Denzel movie. At least not in most of them. And with that, my praise ends. I guess I don't really need to rail on it any more, since my stance is pretty rock solid at this point. There's nothing else to talk about, really, except for my insistance that you do NOT go see this. Buy the original on DVD instead. It's an old version, and I doubt there will be any new ones made because of the remake, but it's still worth it. You might have to mess around with your settings to get a widescreen presentation, and then you'll notice the image being stretched a tad, but it's totally watchable. Much more so than this pile of trash.

No trailer for this one. Watch Walter and Robert. My colleague talked about it once.

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