Starring Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam, Hector Elizondo, Earl Hindman, Jerry Stiller, Doris Roberts

(8-Exceptional Film)

Tense. Humorous. Classic.

Mr. Blue: I once had a man shot for talking to me like that.

Mr. Gray: Yeah, well, that’s the difference between you and me. I’ve always done my own killing.

The Taking of Pelham 123 is so lowkey that you might write it off as simply a breezy, entertaining action flick. Looking at its contemporary reviews, that seems to be what most critics did; a lot of 3-star reviews, positive, but hardly spectacular. With time, and perhaps in comparison to its inferior remake, the film has become a classic. Starring Walter Matthau as Lt. Garber, a quartet of violent criminals, known only by their aliases (Mr. Gray, Mr. Blue, Mr. Green, and Mr. Brown), hijack a high-speed subway train and hold its passengers hostage. Scrambling to meet their demands, the cool-headed, wry Lt. Garber, fights to outsmart the thieves. Funny, suspenseful, and efficient, The Taking of Pelham 123 is so well-done. The score, as offbeat and eccentric as it is, really works and Matthau’s face for a finale is perfect. This is a film very clearly of its time (the ’70s). Rather than that being a weakness, it’s a major strength. It’s why it has grown in reputation over the years. Not only is it an exceptional action caper, it’s also a sort of a time capsule.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-


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