The best thing about the movie is—perhaps unsurprisingly—the crackling interaction between the reliable Denzel Washington and John Travolta, who really shines here. The conversations between the two actors range from profanity-filled yelling to philosophical discussions, and the scene in which they finally meet face to face is brimming with tension under the surface. Washington’s character wears an earring in his right ear and Travolta’s character wears one in his left ear—a subtle symbol of the two opposing minds.
Clichéd? Yes, but the movie’s relatively high entertainment quotient, brisk pace, and excellent location work—it is set in New York City—outweigh the negative impact of the clichés on the film.
Except for the effectively unsettling and slightly dizzying opening sequence, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is too slick for its own good. Slow motion, quick cutting, and the like have their place in some movies, but here director Tony Scott overuses them and they become distracting. The repetitive motor-vehicle crashes in the scenes that show a police convoy transporting the ransom money at high speed, while technically well-made, are neither exciting nor cool, and they do not add much to the story.
James Gandolfini and John Turturro do nice turns as the mayor and a hostage negotiator, respectively. Chance Kelly (“Godfather” in the great miniseries Generation Kill) has a small role as an Emergency Service Unit captain.
Based on the novel The Taking of Pelham One Two Three by John Godey.