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File:Taking of pelham one two three.jpg

Thank you for choosing the New York Subway.


 Garber: You won't believe it.

Rico: You know me, I'll believe anything.

Garber: The train's been hijacked.

Rico: I don't believe it.


A 1974 Heist Film, starring Walter Matthau as Lieutenant Garber and Robert Shaw as (leader of the hijackers) Mr. Blue.

Remade in 1998 (starring Edward James Olmos), and 2009 with Denzel Washington and John Travolta.

The 2009 version of The Taking of Pelham 123 splits the Walther Matthau character of Walter Garber into two persons (Denzel Washington as MTA Dispatcher Walter Garber, and John Turturro as NYPD Hostage Negotiator Detective Camonetti). Both have an ordinary day thrown into chaos by an audacious crime: the hijacking of a subway train that is in Garber's charge.

John Travolta co-stars as Ryder, the criminal mastermind who, as leader of a highly-armed gang of four, including a subway-knowledgeable henchman, (played by Luis Guzman), threatens to execute the train's passengers unless a large ransom is paid within one hour. Adding to the trouble, Ryder refuses to speak to Detective Camonetti, forcing Garber to negotiate with him on his own. As the tension mounts beneath his feet, Garber employs his vast knowledge of the subway system in a battle to outwit Ryder and save the hostages.

This Film Provides Examples Of:

  • Ambiguously Gay: Ryder in the remake.
  • Artistic License Gun Safety: A trained NYPD sniper shows exceedingly poor trigger discipline by resting his finger on the trigger while awaiting the order to take the shot. See I Just Shot Marvin in the Face below.
  • Baby Carriage: In the original film the police car racing to bring the money to the station by Mr. Blue's deadline crashes after swerving to avoid a bicycle vendor.
  • Big Applesauce: Where else is someone gonna hijack a NYC subway train? Also the original novel was written by a born and bred New Yorker.
  • Bilingual Backfire: The protagonist cop in the 1974 film version is showing a group of Japanese transit officers around the control room, and making numerous racist comments because he thinks they can't understand a word he's saying, culminating in "Okay, get these yellow monkeys out of here!" They all shake his hand and thank him politely in fluent English as they leave, to his evident chagrin.
  • Brick Joke: In the original the unpopular Mayor doesn't want to visit the scene of the hijacking because he'll be booed. Later in the film he does show up (offscreen)--and:

 NYPD Official: [over the sound of loud booing] Jesus, it's the goddamn Mayor.

  • Chekhov's Gun: The sneeze.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: (Remake) Ryder, so very, very much, to the point where one could mistake him for having motherfuckin' Tourette's.
    • The original had quite a high quotient of expletives for a mainstream 1974 release. One character even says "How the hell can you run a goddamn railroad without swearing?!"
  • Deadpan Snarker: Almost everyone in the original. Even the hostages get in on it.

 Old Man: Excuse me, sir. Would you mind telling us how much you're getting?

Mr. Blue: Why is that of interest to you, sir?

Old Man: Well, a person likes to know his worth.

Mr. Blue: One million dollars.

Old Man: That's not so terrific.

  • Dramatic Irony: A train board controller early in the film walks through an unlocked gate into the tunnels. After all, "Who's gonna steal a train?"
    • (Remake) The mayor, informed about the hostage situation, says that he'll take the subway to get there because "It'll be faster."
  • Did Not Do the Research: The idea of giving any money to the hijackers is almost never considered, and is certainly not allowed given the go-ahead in such a short amount of time.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Mr. Gray - one of the hijackers - was fired from the Mafia for being too violent.
    • The novel explained this, IIRC. Mr. Gray's taste for violence got in the way of running protection rackets effectively; the victims felt no obligation to cooperate since he tended to beat them whether they paid the protection money or not.
  • The Everyman: Garber.
  • Evil Brit: Robert Shaw in the original, prompting the line:

 He's got a very English accent. He might be a fruitcake.

  • Failsafe Failure: The Dead Man's Switch in the subway cars are defeated quite ingeniously.
  • The Film of the Book: The original and both remakes.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages: Garber in the original is told to look after a group of Tokyo subway executives who follow him around obediently without speaking. He quickly gets sick of playing tour guide and, assuming they don't speak any English, begins insulting them at random points in his descriptions of things. When the hostage situation occurs, they say goodbye in flawless English and leave.
  • Heavy Sleeper: One of the hostages in the original is a drunken woman who remains sound asleep and oblivious to what's going on until the end.

 (after the train screeches to a halt) "*hic*... 42nd Street already?"

  • Hired Guns: Mr. Blue in the original is an out of work British mercenary.
  • Hostage Situation: Played with, hostages are used as "commodities" and traded over to the police for one million dollars.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: But instead of a road bump, it's a rat. Someone still gets shot in the face, though.
  • Instant Death Bullet: Averted throughout the entire movie. Every person except two dies from being shot multiple times.
  • Instant Emergency Response: Averted in the 1974 version.
  • Lampshade Hanging: "Why the fuck didn't we use a helicopter to transport the money?"
  • Last Words: "You're my hero, Garber."
  • Info Dump: Several explanations of how subways work. It's handled fairly well.
  • New York Subway: The setting of the heist.
  • No Name Given: None of the hostages are given names. In the original film, they're listed in the credits as "The Secretary", "The Mother", "The Old Man", "The Homosexual", "The Pimp", etc.
  • Noble Bigot with a Badge: Walter Matthau's character is somewhat dumbfounded when the high-ranking officer he's been talking to on the radio turns out to be black. He also mistakes the hippie cop for a woman because of his long hair.
  • Oh Crap: Mr. Green, twice in the final scene.
  • Perfect Health: Averted in the original with Mr. Green, who has a bad cold (and whose sneezing leads to his capture at the end).
    • The Mayor is also shown to be suffering from a cold.
  • Porn Stache: Ryder.
  • Pull the Thread: A recognizable sneeze gives Mr. Green him away.
  • Raised Catholic: (Remake) Ryder who, for a robber, talks about God an awful lot.
  • The Remake
  • Retirony: Inverted in the original with the conductor, who's spending his first day on the job.
  • Speech Impediment: Mr. Brown talks with a noticeable stutter.
  • Theme Naming: The hijackers all have codenames that correspond to eye colors: Mr. Green, Mr. Blue, Mr. Gray, and Mr. Brown. The remake changes Mr. Brown to Mr. Black, spoiling the eye color theme. Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs features color-themed codenames as an Homage.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Caz Dolowicz in the original tells the hijackers to fuck off and tries to board the train. No prizes what the hijackers do to him.