Scenes of the Week: Easy as One Two Three
It is that time again to look at a famous action movie and to see the remakes and parodies that arrive in its wake. If you don’t remember, Bulletproof Action took a detailed look at the famous Odessa Steps from Battleship Potemkin (highly recommended reading and viewing.) This week’s scenes are a little grittier as we take a look at the 1974 subway action crime classic, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three and the Johnny-come-latelies who have tried to capitalize on the original’s success. We have three scenes, one from the original, one from a remake, and one from a parody, let’s do this thing.
The Original – The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) – New York City is one of the greatest cities in the world and I love every bit of it, but there was a time when walking down the street was putting your own well-being at risk. Movies like Death Wish, The French Connection, and Serpico do a great job of presenting a 1970s New Yorker’s milieu. One of my personal favorites from that time period takes a subterranean look at the Big Apple in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. Robert Shaw and his band of colorful miscreants have hijacked a subway train in order for a quick payday, but they were not counting on Walter Matthau to be on the case. Gesundheit!
The Remake – The Taking of Pelham 123 (2009) – In this I want everything now, instant gratification society we live in, spelling out the numbers one two three is just too much. The Arabic numerals are not the only difference, as The Taking of Pelham 123 modernized the subway hijacking to be set in a post 9/11 world with John Travolta and Denzel Washington starring. The hijacking turns out to be a scheme to game the stock market with some put options and adds an interesting financial storyline. The remake does a solid job of paying homage to the original while presenting the story to a modern audience but it is missing the metric ton of grit from the 1974 film.
The Parody – The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1998) – If you are unaware, Pelham One Two Three refers to the station (Pelham) and the time the train is set to leave said station (1:23.) So when a movie is set in one of the world’s most famous and recognizable public transit systems (New York City), it helps to film in that location. However, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1998) was a made for television movie, which means a made for television budget, which means it was filmed in Toronto. If anybody has ever been to the wonderful capital of Ontario, you know that it is too clean to ever pass as New York City. All the flash cuts of NYC and a bleach blonde Donnie Wahlberg can’t help the movie from coming across as a anything but a parody. With all that being said, it is not a terrible movie, the action is passable, and Vincent D’Onofrio doesn’t disappoint if you can find this mostly forgotten version.