Compared to Joseph Sargent's grungier original, about a hijacked downtown 6 train (released in 1974, months after John Lindsay left office), this Pelham isn't an especially clever or stylish latter-day B-noir. Better understood as a poor man's Girlfriend Experience, Scott's cynical rehash is an up-to-the-minute report on Big Apple corruption that, as a work of art, feels pretty compromised itself. The players include a Wall Street douchebag (John Travolta), an MTA administrator on the take (Denzel Washington) and a billionaire mayor (James Gandolfini) who pretends to ride public transportation while relying on his limo. Stock characters all, but they're also obvious stand-ins for real life counterparts. (Giuliani and Bloomberg are each subtexts of more than one joke, while scandal-plagued CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo appears conspicuously in news footage.)
Or, put another way, no one is innocent, as Travolta's white-cum-blue-collar criminal repeatedly opines. He ought to know. Wearing his signature toupee/goatee combo signifying evil and camp, the actor gives a calculatedly casual performance, fitting for a hypocritical studio film about a city where people sell their souls. During the finale, Travolta even tries to escape across the Manhattan Bridge to Brooklyn, reversing the journey of Tony Manero.
Opens June 12