It was recently announced that Denzel Washington is set to star as Det. Zachary Garber in Tony Scott’s remake of Joseph Sargent’s 1974 thriller, The Taking of Pehlam One Two Three in a role made famous by Walter Matthau. I am sure that those of you who have seen the original are, like me, asking WHY!?! Way the hell would anyone do this? Of the many films from 70’s Hollywood, this is one of the most stylized and so obviously set in that time period. It takes place in a pre-Ed Koch, early 70’s New York that was undergoing a severe budget crisis causing the freezing of city wages and the slashing of the city’s workforce. It’s a period piece, pure and simple.
Besides, it’s really a stupid premise.
Don’t get me wrong, this is one of my all-time favorite films. it’s brilliant in almost every way, including that the idea of hijacking a train on a closed system is patently ridiculous. I mean, where they gonna go? As one famous exchange in the film puts it:
Lt. Rico Patrone: Wait a minute. I just figured out how they’re going to get away.
Lt. Garber: I’m listening.
Lt. Rico Patrone: They’re going to fly the train to Cuba.
This one of dozens of bit of dialog that are bound to be removed or altered unless it’s a period film (which you know it won’t be) because they won’t make sense in 2008. How many of today’s audience would know that in the 60’s and 70’s there were dozens of US flights that were hijacked and flown to Cuba? It was so common that in a Monty Python episode a man tries to hijack a Cuba-bound plane to Luton (an airport outside London) and eventually ends up hijacking a double decker bus that changes its destination sign to read “Straight to Cuba.”
The thing is, without the period touches, this is just another heist thriller and one with an absurd premise, to boot. The bankruptcy of New York, the oddly Ed Koch-like Lee Wallace as the Mayor of (3 years prior to Koch’s election!), the grimy look of the city and the completely un-PC dialog:
Caz Dolowicz: Oh, come on. If I’ve got to watch my language just because they let a few broads in, I’m going to quit. How the hell can you run a goddamn railroad without swearing?
All of these things serve to make the original what it is, a gripping, tense and occasionally very funny period thriller. See the original, please!