The Remaking of Pelham One Two Three

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In my last post, I noted that "an industry that can remake The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is an industry that can remake anything." This was ambiguously phrased, as Jonah Goldberg's outraged pro-Pelham response makes clear, so let me rephrase it: An industry that remakes an unimprovable, not-all-that-famous, era-specific film for absolutely no good reason will remake anything. Remaking Pelham is the equivalent of Richard Linklater's equally pointless Bad News Bears remake (and not just because they both star Walter Matthau), except that Bears is a more famous film, so at least Linklater's effort had an obvious commercial rationale. (Happily, though, it tanked anyway.) Moreover it's only been a few years since Spike Lee made Inside Man, an intermittently-entertaining thriller that was absolutely rife with Pelham homages, and that starred Denzel Washington as the New York cop charged with defusing a hostage situation. Naturally, the Pelham remake stars ... Denzel Washington as the New York cop charged with defusing a hostage situation. Brilliant! Though not quite as brilliant as casting John Travolta in a role previously occupied by Robert Shaw: That casting coup requires an idiocy so sublime it can only be called genius, which is of course exactly what you'd expect from a film directed by Tony Scott.

Let's go to the videotape:


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Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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