Beyond Good and Evil in The Taking of Pelham 123
05.16.09 by REELZ
An Esquire preview of Tony Scott's new interpretation of The Taking of Pelham 123 compares the characters in the remake to those of 1970s original and finds them refreshingly gray.
It starts out just like the reviewer expected it to: "It's fast and violent and profane. It's unmistakably modern, and, sure enough, it's loud as hell." The characters come off as mostly black and white, good or evil. Denzel Washington plays Garber, a regular out-of-shape Joe who just happens to find himself on the other end of the radio with a team of ruthless hijackers. John Travolta takes up the other end, as the ruthless hijacker Ryder, a stereotype of pure evil.
But then things got a little more complicated:
... as Garber and Ryder talk, and revelations are made, and they begin to make their confessions to each other, the lines begin to blur. Garber -- who has his own mixed emotions -- isn't all that good, and Ryder -- who believes the city has done him significant wrong -- isn't all that evil.
The director's willingness to think outside the box on good and evil extended to some of the other characters as well. Looking for real life personalities to model Travolta's accomplices on, Scott tells Esquire that he
unearthed a pair of real crazed Albanians who may or may not have spent time in prison ... and eventually they jobbed their way into parts in the actual movie ... "Now they want to be actors," Scott says with a shake of his head, perhaps wondering whether he's saved us from two monsters or created two more.
Overall, the review concludes, Scott really has managed to one-up the original, and his version of Pelham is that "rare popcorn movie in which we're never sure whose side everyone is on or where they might end up."