Friday, January 8, 2010

The Taking of Pelham 123 (1974)

I haven't seent the new version of this movie, starring John Travolta and Denzel Washington, but our library had a copy of the original, so I decided to check it out.  Walter Matthau has had a tremendous career in TV and movies, but I always think of him as the coach of the Bad News Bears.  In Pelham 123, he's cleaned up his act and is a lieutenant in the New York City Transit Police.  On an otherwise quiet day in the NY subway, a group of armed men take over a subway car, including the passegers, who become hostages, and demand a million dollars for their release.

This is such a simple plan, I am surprised no one ever tried it before.  Or maybe they did, and I just don't know it.  They almost get away with it, and I have to believe that after this movie (or after the novel it's based on), subways took security up a couple of levels.  Even though the hijacking is an outrageously bold move, the movie's presentation is very believable.  The subway scenes (much of the movie, of course) are well done, conveying the tight quarters of the tunnels, subway cars, and cab (or whatever you call the little booth the drivers stand in.)

This was a fun movie, with suspense, a little humor, and a nice resolution.  Coach Buttermaker saves the day.  I look forward to seeing how Denzel Washington measures up.

Bottom line: 3 stars.

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