The Faking of Pelham 1-2-3

WARNING! If you intend seeing the Hollywood nonsense entitled “The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3” do not read further—this post contains spoilers and was produced in a household containing nuts.

I’m willing to suspend my disbelief in order to be entertained, but the Hollywood producers, scriptwriters and directors have to make it at least possible, if not easy, to do. The so-called plot of this ridiculous movie fails utterly to do that. I can only assume that they think no one will notice the implausibility of their offering.

Stated baldly, it actually isn’t that bad: gang of crooks hijack subway train, take hostages, demand ransom, have bold getaway plan. It’s quite hard to mess that up, but the writer (Brian Helgeland) and the director (Tony Scott) have succeeded brilliantly in doing just that.

The crooks demand 10 million dollars for the safe release of the hostages. Now 10 million dollars is not an inconsiderable sum of money, but it obviously just didn’t sound like enough to the movie makers, so they concocted a far-fetched sub-plot in which the hijacking of the train was, by some unexplained mechanism, supposed to make the stock market collapse and the gold price go through the roof. The crooks would make a further fortune by exercising put options on the former and presumably selling the latter. One of the problems I have with this is that the movie was made long after the 11/9 (yes, I do insist on putting the day first) terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre which despite its horrifying ferocity did not do to the markets what the perpetrators of this awful movie would have us believe a mere train hijacking would do.

The chief crook is played by John Travolta. Apart from his membership of an absurd cult, he is in contention, along with cricketer Graeme Smith, for the most punchable face on screen. If I were to meet either of these people in the flesh I would probably end up either in prison or hospital because I would not be able to resist putting my fist through their fatuous features. However, my propensity for unprovoked violence is not apropos; the almost bovine stupidity with which Muffin Face (Travolta, I can’t remember his screen name) goes about screwing up his crime is.

Had he worn a striped jersey, Zorro mask and demanded the ransom money be delivered in a sack clearly labeled “SWAG” he would not have been caught any quicker. This pea-brain allowed all the hostages to see his nauseating face, he left his fingerprints all over the train, he yacked non-stop over the radio to the hero of the piece like a housewife with her tits balanced on her neighbour’s garden fence–in short he is possibly the most incompetent crook in cinematic history, but his getaway plan could have redeemed him had he carried it out properly.

The gang were to reach the basement of the Waldorf-Astoria hotel through a disused subway tunnel. This they did, but they hadn’t properly thought out what they should do after they had successfully arrived at the hotel, so they walked out the front door with, unbelievably, the money still in the cases the cops had provided. How dumb is that? What would you have done?

I would have booked two rooms in advance at the hotel, one in my own name and one not. I would have hired an oke to check in in my name with a couple of empty suitcases. He would leave the empty suitcases in the decoy room, then proceed to the other where he would order a room service meal while the hijacking was in progress, giving me a solid alibi. On arrival at the hotel, I would go up to the first room and transfer the money to the empty suitcases, then go to the second room with the money in the suitcases, leaving the original bags in the first room. The oke would then leave, and I would wait until the heat was off, then depart for the airport and a comfortable life somewhere warm. The end of the movie would go something like this:

INT. DAY
A PLUSH HALLWAY IN THE WALDORF-ASTORIA HOTEL.

COP 1

Freeze!

OKE (FROZEN)

Don’t shoot! I haven’t done anything!

COP 1

What kinda weird talk is that?

COP 2

I think he’s trying to say he aint done
nuffink.

COP 1

That so, bud? Where you coming from?

OKE

I’ve been having a business breakfast
with a client. Room 1124.

COP 2 (PUTTING HIS GUN AWAY)

Yeah, OK. We just spoke to that dude.
Sorry to have inconvenienced you. Have
a nice day.

OKE

That’s most kind of you, officer,
but I’ve already made other plans.

FADE OUT

FADE IN:

EXT. DAY

THE TAXI RANK OUTSIDE THE WALDORF-ASTORIA HOTEL. MUFFIN FACE (TRAVOLTA) SUPERVISES THE STOWAGE OF HIS GUCCI BAGGAGE IN A YELLOW CAB’S BOOT (OK, TRUNK FOR FUCK’S SAKE). HE CLIMBS INTO THE REAR SEAT AND THE DOOR IS CLOSED BY THE HOTEL’S LIVERIED DOORMAN. ROLL CLOSING CREDITS AS THE CAB DRIVES OFF WITH MUFFIN FACE SMIRKING TRIUMPHANTLY THROUGH THE BACK WINDOW.

Creative Commons License
Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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