As I was settling into my seat for the screening of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, a young man came up to me and asked, “Are you excited?”
“I guess,” I said (unconvincingly). “I really loved the original, so I’m not exactly sure why we needed a remake.”
“This is a remake?” the kid asked.
And there you go.
To be honest, I actually feel sorry for people whose sole experience with this film—about the hijacking of a New York subway car—comes courtesy of Tony Scott’s slickly efficient but soulless version. The original was gritty, funky, funny, and humane—positively redolent with a sense of New York City and its people.
The new flick has its moments—mostly the scenes between Denzel Washington as Walter Garber, the mild-mannered NYC transit worker, and John Travolta as Ryder, the pissed off philosopher-hijacker he must negotiate with—but Scott is clearly much more interested in keeping the action swift and the body count high than giving us a sense of place. In Joseph Sargent’s original, we felt the anxiety of the hostages, plus a bit of their...