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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Walter Matthau
Robert Shaw
Martin Balsam
Hector Elizondo
Earl Hindman
James Broderick.
Directors
Joseph Sargent.
Screenwriters
Peter Stone.
Running Time
104 minutes

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The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three
Not the John Travolta one


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Plot
A group of criminals take a New York subway train hostage and make a brutal demand: the city pay $1 million in ransom within one hour or they will begin killing the passengers for every minute they are late. It is up to veteran detective Lt. Garber to undertake the difficult negotiations.


Review

The kind of gritty, relentless thriller that could only come from the ‘70s, Joseph Sargent’s subway suspenser is a hardboiled treat. A culturally influential flick (Quentin Tarantino would later nick the criminals using colours as codenames gambit for Reservoir Dogs; the Beastie Boys reference it in the song Sure Shot), it mixes traditional action licks, cat and mouse mindgames, political satire, male camaraderie and a decidedly Noo Yawk sensibility (all wrapped up in David Shire’s terrific blaxploitation-esque score) into a genre movie, without ever forgoing respect for the audiences intelligences.
 
Based on John Godey’s potboiler, Sargent plays out the premise of a subway hold up with a logical, ruthless efficiency, creating the set-up in crisp clean tones (as we meet Garber, he is giving a delegation from the Tokyo subway system a guided tour of the control centre, imparting lots of knowledge the audience will need later) and then wringing out the hostage crisis for every drop of tension. The core relationship of the film, between Shaw’s cold eyed crim and Matthau’s wisecracking cop, is terrifically etched, especially considering it is conducted entirely over the radio. Shaw’s Blue, a former Brit Army colonel and mercenary, is another one of the actor’s gallery of terrific villains, coolly flicking through the pages of a puzzle book as he bargains with people’s lives.
 
 If the film has a weak spot, it is that the passengers — a pimp, a wise old man, a mother with 2 snotty kids — are too thinly drawn and stereotypical, too overtly designed to be a cross section of the general public. But this shouldn’t detract from what is a terrific exercise in thriller making.


Verdict
The kind of gritty, relentless thriller that could only come from the ‘70s.


Reviewed by Will Thomas

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three
Empire Star Rating

RE: The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three

Old Man: "Excuse me Mister. Shouldn't we be let in on what's going on?"   Mr Blue: "What's happening, Sir, is that you are being held by 4 very dangerous men armed with machine guns."   70's New York classic. Fantastic score by David Shire, the End Theme is particulary good with the added melotron (sp?) section. ... More

Posted by Rafer Janders at 12:28, 03 April 2007 | Report This Post


RE: The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three

 a classic which proved that Walther Mattau was a good serious as well as comic actor 8/10 oh and a great score too  ... More

Posted by filmburner30 at 12:21, 03 April 2007 | Report This Post


RE: The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three

One of those films film geeks love to get their hands on, especialy since it was this film that Tarantino got the idea of naming the characters in reservoir dogs by colour. ... More

Posted by libertine at 19:04, 01 April 2007 | Report This Post


RE: The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three

/align] this when I was younger.Haven't seen it for years though. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Cuchulainn at 17:00, 01 April 2007 | Report This Post


RE: The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three

Though built around a superb, seamless performance from Matthau, this film isn't without weaknesses. Although I really love Shaw I didn't think there was an awful lot of menace in his performance, just a dull coldness, and as mentioned the rent-a-hostages hardly help the situation, but Sargent keeps the focus moving and the film is finely paced so the potential damage from an underwhelming hostage situation is mostly averted as we ping back and forth between situations. Overall an entertaining ... More

Posted by Lydia_H at 00:29, 31 March 2007 | Report This Post


RE: The Taking Of Pelham One Two Three

there is ever a mention on these boards about lost classics this is the film I point them to. One of my all time favourite films and one that should be mentioned more when 70's cinema is talked about. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by stuieboy at 21:34, 30 March 2007 | Report This Post



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