Not long ago I made a list of the top 10 actors of the decade. My # 5 on the males, was Denzel Washington. There I said that he made the list because although he is bad at picking scripts, he always gives it his best, particularly in his collaborations with Tony Scott. With The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, the trend continues of him giving a great performance in a bad Scott movie.
In the movie, Washington plays Walter Garber, a former subway conductor who now works in an office as a dispatcher. One day, a man just called Ryder (John Travolta) hijacks a subway train, and it is up to Garber to deal with the situation. Now, his past will play a role on how he handles what is in front of him and must buy time before Ryder kill the people in the train.
To be honest, Washington is the only thing worthwhile about this movie. Tony Scott’s style does not fit the story at all and we know nothing about the people on the train. The movie is all about Washington and Travolta talking, but the dialogue is not strong enough to keep things going for two hours. In fact, the whole script is not strong enough the keep things going for two hours.
As for Travolta, he is awful here. Had the movie not taken its self too seriously, it could have been a fun scenery chewing performance. However, since the movie is serious, the performance is grating and he did not fit the role. Whatever happened to post-Pulp Fiction Travolta? He needs to work with Tarantino again.
Although by the end things start to get good, it is too late for redemption. Unnecessary car crashes, characters that we do not care about, pointless situations (the computer, the reveal of who Ryder really is), horrible dialogue, and a horrible performance from John Travolta makes this movie worst than it deserved to be given Denzel Washington’s performance.