Friday, January 4, 2013

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) Review

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three poster
Director: Joseph Sargent
Stars: Walter Matthau, Jerry Stiller, Dick O'Neill, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam
Genre: Thriller, Crime

As far as 70s crime thrillers go, The Taking of Pelham 123 is one of the finest.

Set in 70s New York City the story follows a group of hijackers who hold a train hostage and threaten to kill the passengers if they aren't paid one million dollars. But there's still one thing that everyone can't figure out: what's their escape plan?

First off I have to say that one thing I love about this film is its setting. It nicely captures New York at the time; the way it looked, the types of people. It's great. Maybe I appreciate it more since I'm from New York (though I wasn't born until two decades after this film), so I recognize many of the subway stops and street names.

The plot is pretty good. It surely made subway-takers even more terrified of the subway then they already were. It definitely took a new angle on subway trains. The movie isn't action packed, but it doesn't feel slow. There's a lot of suspense and build-up and most of it is very effective. The only real complaint I had was that the hijacker's escape plan was pretty disappointing. It wasn't really clever, or crazy, or impressive. It just was.

The cast is pretty awesome too. You have Walter Matthau sort of playing the film's protagonist, Dick O'Neill, and Jerry Stiller of Seinfeld and King of Queens fame (Stiller really is fond of New York, isn't he?). Robert Shaw, who fans of Jaws will recognize as Quint the fisherman, played Mr. Blue. Martin Balsam, whom any film-goer will recognize from somewhere, played Mr. Green.

The writing is great, it has plenty of cheesy one-liners (many of them very clever) but it also has some really fantastic dialogue, which is great being that most of the film is about hijackers giving demands through a radio.

Walter Matthau in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

The ending, I won't spoil, is ridiculous, hilarious, totally predictable, but it works. The last frame cracks me up every time.

Robert Shaw in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

There's not much more I can say about The Taking of Pelham 123. It's enjoyable to watch and it captures its setting so well. Has its hilarious points and its suspenseful ones. Worth the watch. 

Recommended for: Fans of any cast/crew, fans of 70s thrillers, New Yorkers

4/5 stars

Purchase The Taking of Pelham 123 on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD
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