The Taking of Pelham 123
Dir Tony Scott US (PG15)
In the annals of unnecessary remakes, few have felt more pointless than The Taking of Pelham 123. John Godey’s grimy dimestore novel was originally adapted for the big screen back in 1974, resulting in a taut thriller notable for inspiring Tarantino to create his colour-coded criminals in Reservoir Dogs. There’s no Mr Blue or Mr Green in Tony Scott’s remake – and it’s hard to imagine it inspiring anyone to do anything.
It starts well enough, as John Travolta’s burly, adult movie-moustachioed ex-con Ryder and his gang of thinly characterised crims take over a New York subway train and hold the passengers at gunpoint. Cue Denzel Washington’s Garber, an out-of-his-depth desk jockey with a sketchy moral history and a rapport with the bad guys. Let the verbal sparring commence!
The film’s mid-section, in which these two fine actors chew manfully through Brian Helgeland’s dialogue despite repeated interruption from James Gandolfini’s portly Mayor and Scott’s zipline shakycam histrionics, just about holds the attention. There are nice turns from John Turturro as a twitchy hostage negotiator and Luis Guzman as a squirrelly crook. But it all collapses in the final act, eschewing tension in favour of a series of dimly lit tunnel-bound shootouts.
The Taking of Pelham 123 is not a bad film: it’s ponderous and shallow, but always watchable. But what it crucially fails to do, especially in the light of its illustrious predecessor, is justify its own existence.
Dhs85 at Virgin Megastore.
Dir Anne Fletcher US (PG13)
They may as well have called this one Mismatched Sham Wedding Comedy for all the effort it makes to shake new life out of a tattered genre. Sandra Bullock is ball-busting New York publishing editor Margaret Tate, whose sadistic way with her colleagues shows up both her utter wretchedness as a human being and the inherent inequalities of American employment law. Ryan Reynolds plays her nice-guy assistant Andrew Paxton, happy to accept her exploitative manner in the hope that it may lead to his eventual promotion. Yet, Margaret is Canadian, and due to a foul-up at the immigration department, the threat of deportation looms if she is unable to prove to Homeland Security that she’s married to a Yank. Knowing that Andrew’s good for it, she coerces him to pose as her husband and, to reinforce the deception, the pair head to the Alaskan heartlands for Grammy Paxton’s 90th.
Despite sporadically amusing performances from the two leads, this ticks all the same boxes as films like Green Card, Meet the Parents and The Devil Wears Prada, including a perpetuation of the myth that inside every ruthless, independently minded businesswoman lies a fragile fawn just waiting to be drawn out by some buff, liberal drone. And what with this unfolding in Sarah Palin country, we’re also reminded that marriage is not something to be used to circumvent justice, but a cherished gift from God.
Dhs85 at Virgin Megastore.