Hired as a bodyguard for a young girl (Dakota Fanning), a retired CIA agent (Denzel Washington) takes revenge on her kidnappers in Mexico City.
In his third film with director Tony Scott (Man on Fire), Academy Award winner Denzel Washington (Training Day) pretended to be a "regular Joe" in order toget into character for his role as an MTA dispatcher in The Taking of Pelham 123:
I ate a lot and kept getting smaller and smaller sweaters to wear. I spilled coffee on myself. I liked the idea that when they hand Garber a gun he's never held one before. He was an ordinary guy in an extraordinary situation with this cloud over his head. He didn't come to work knowing that he was going to get an opportunity to redeem himself. It was something he felt that he needed to do and as he got into it deeper and deeper, he went for it.
Like Man on Fire, this film is a "reimagining" of a previous movie. The 1974 big-screen version of The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three was directed by Joseph Sargent and starred Walter Matthau. A 1998 made-for-TV movie cast included Edward James Olmos and Lorraine Bracco. However, Washington insisted that this is a different movie:
It's a reinvention. It's the story of a hostage situation on a train in New York City. That's what this film and the Walter Matthau version have in common.
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