In the original Pelham, director Joseph Sargent’s uncluttered direction played up the sweaty-collared confinement of the subway car and the transit office, locking the cops and crooks each in their own pressure cooker. Which marks, oh, the 50th time I’ve unfavorably compared the remake to the original—the lazy reviewer’s default setting, to be sure. But Scott’s redo comes up short in almost every regard against the ’74 model—against David Shire’s knuckled-brass score, against its mugs’ gallery of ’70s New York character actors, against Peter Stone’s serrated script, and certainly against its wordless punch line, beside which the new version’s gloppy coda looks sappy indeed. If it’s somehow unfair to compare the two, why was The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 even remade?

Stepen Vaughan

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 was directed by Tony Scott; written by Brian Helgeland, based on the novel by John Godey; and stars Denzel Washington, John Travolta, James Gandolfini and John Turturro. Rated R. Countywide.

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