John Travolta hates when people don't give up train seats for pregnant women.
Ayo! Scott is like the MTA—only when he runs train he comes on time and doesn't smell like a crazy shit-smeared hobo. Not that Ayo! is bitter about paying two dollars to get railed by NYC public transportation. Despite some rough riding, it does eventually get him from A to B. The same can be said of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, director Tony Scott's remake of the 1974 movie based on John Godey's book.
In the middle of the busy Manhattan workday, a team of criminals hijacks the 1:23 p.m. 6 local train out of Pelham Bay Park. Led by neck-tatted, biker 'stache-sporting ex-con Ryder (John Travolta), they demand $10 million ransom for a car full of hostages, and don't think twice about blasting fools. On the other end of negotiations is Walter Garber (the transcendent Denzel Washinton), an MTA lifer who's been humiliated and demoted to train dispatcher following allegations that he took bribes. Although a police negotiator and the mayor (played well by John Turturro and James Gandolfini, respectively) try to get involved, Ryder insists that the working stiff, who may once have been tempted to break the rules for some quick cash, stay on the line with him until the deal is done (similarities between them aside, Ryder says he thinks Garber's voice is sexy enough that he'd have taken him as his prison bitch)...
Washington is understated in his portrayal of a powerless cog in the MTA machine, making Garber put-upon but never pathetic. On the other hand, the character's inevitable nutting up goes a bit far, as Ayo! doubts very highly that an underpaid transportation worker who's never held a gun would put his life on the line to pursue an armed killer and reclaim city funds (though it would be the ultimate platform conductor's "fuck you," much better than looking a commuter in the eye and shutting the train door in their face).
The best thing that can be said about Travolta is that he's not faking the follicles behind one of his signature hair pieces. A neck tat and a vocabulary that consists mostly of the word "motherfucker" don't make a believable tough guy—if they did, a whole lotta gangsta rappers wouldn't be working at the post office now. Ryder, we find out, served time for white collar crimes, and yet instead of snacking on men in between cafeteria meals, he somehow emerged a ruthless homicidal mastermind with a posse of convicts down for his suicide mission. Travolta, like Tony Scott's overly aggressive "Look at me!" directorial style, distracts from what is a surprisingly worthwhile ride through the greed and terrorism paranoia of post-9/11 New York. If you want to take a ride from somewhere to somewhere else, by all means, get on board The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. Just don't cry to Ayo! when you find there's some shit smeared on your seat. Check out the 2009 trailer (and the 1974 for comparison's sake) to decide if you're riding out for the movie.