Summer blockbusters have a certain reputation of being chock full of mindless action movies that have no real substance other than to serve as eye candy and an opportunity for the brain to shut off for about two hours.
But, as seen with the "Bourne" movies, summer action movies can be intelligent, and in this case, relevant. "The Taking of Pelham 123" to me was a counterargument for everyone who looks at the summer movie season with disdain, the reasons for this are as easy as 1 2 3.
1. The acting is phenomenal. And why shouldn't it be? It does star two-time Oscar winner and five time nominee Denzel Washington. Washington plays Walter Garber (played by Walter Mathau in the original film) with his trademark sense of humanity with a twist of humility.
James Gandolfini finally gets a chance to shine in a blockbuster film after so many years of being Tony Soprano. Gandolfini plays the mayor of New York and brings some of his Tony Soprano esque intensity to this film.
Luiz Guzman ("Boogie Nights", "Anger Management") does a great job as Travolta's sidekick. However, the real gem of the movie is John Travolta playing Bernard Ryder (originally played by Robert Shaw), the villain who takes over train 123. Travolta brings such fire, intelligence, and charisma to this role and actually makes Ryder a great action movie villain in the vein of Hans Gruber in "Die Hard". Travolta is the true star of the film and reminds people that when he applies himself he can be brilliant (i.e. "Pulp Fiction", "Get Shorty".)
2. The amazing action sequences. Instead of going for the traditional summer staple of overly done CGI action sequences, this film takes a cue from the "Bourne" films and makes the action real, allowing for all of the danger to be that much more intense.
3. It's topical. This film feels relevant as Travolta's character was a former Wall Street type who went to prison for stealing pensions and Washington's character is humbled and trying to lay low after a previous incident knocked him off of his pedestal.
Many try to do this but many fail because the public does not want to deal with the issues that they go to the movies to forget i.e. war, disease, or in this case the economy. That's why I liked it, because it takes a major risk in a movie season that is so dependant on big weekend openings and mass appeal.
I highly recommend this film to people looking for an escape from the usual run-of-the-mill action film. For those with families, Eddie Murphy's "Imagine That" would be the more suitable option, although only the kids will like it (the parents won't as it represents another instance where Murphy tarnishes his reputation as a comic genius).
As always you can catch all of these films at our local Santa Clarita Edwards Cinemas.
Thanks as always for reading and stay tuned as next week I travel back in time to "Year One".
-By Chauncey Telese