One of the most depressing things about modern cinema is Hollywood's view that audiences are happier to sit through remakes than take the time to seek out the originals - and punters' desire to prove them right. 'The Longest Yard', 'Assault on Precinct 13', 'Walking Tall', 'Rollerball'... enough to have some fans of the 1970s versions feeling like Peter Finch's character in 'Network'.
They won't be any happier if they see this.
Demoted pending a disciplinary inquiry, New York subway dispatcher Walter Garber (Washington) is just about to clock off for the day when one of his trains, Pelham 123, fails to stop at stations and then appears to get stuck in a tunnel. There's no accident or driver illness, but an armed gang on board. And their leader (Travolta) only wants to talk to Garber.
If you haven't seen the original, 'The Taking of Pelham One Two Three', you're in for a treat. It has a great cast (Robert Shaw, Walter Matthau, Martin Balsam), brilliant tension and one of the best endings in film history. This remake has the first part but never hooks up with the other two. You'll sit there wondering about all the things director Scott and scriptwriter Brian Helgeland ('Mystic River', 'LA Confidential') could've done to make it better - ideas may include putting Washington's character on the train from the beginning, swapping the Washington and Travolta roles, making far more use of Gandolfini as the Mayor and having his character on the train too and coming up with a far more convincing story for Travolta's villain than the one we get here. As for the screentime given to the legendary Luis Guzmán, outrageous!
This is slick and stylish but for all its pace, suspense is rare. And when Washington's character becomes a sort-of action hero at the end, well, the pointer falls off the silliness gauge.
Scott's planning to tackle 'The Warriors' soon. Please stay calm.