Home > Reviews > THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 – Harry Gregson-Williams

THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 – Harry Gregson-Williams

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

A remake of the classic 1974 film of the same name, The Taking of Pelham 123 is a taut thriller about a gang of criminals led by mastermind Ryder (John Travolta), who hijack a New York City subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom. However, Ryder doesn’t count on coming into contact with subway dispatcher Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), whose normal work day suddenly turns into a battle of wits. The film was directed by Tony Scott, co-stars Luis Guzman, John Turturro and James Gandolfini, and has an original score by Scott’s composer of choice Harry Gregson-Williams.

Whereas the original Pelham 123 has a groundbreaking jazz score from David Shire, Gregson-Williams version is a fairly straightforward modern thriller score; orchestra, grungy electronics and urban rhythms with not much in the way of strong thematic writing, but with a cool, pulsating core to maintain the energy levels. The opening cue, “Something on the Track”, exemplifies much of the score by being a combination of all these things, and later cues such as “The Train Leaves the Station: continue the trend. One or two cues incorporate some interesting electronic textures to play up the subterranean setting, such as a screechy effect that sounds like the brakes of a tube train, or a percussion item that sounds like a chain being rattled.

Some of the mid-album cues, such as “Rigged Contracts” or “All Others Pay Cash”, are ambient mood-setters, with tinkling pianos and subtle string and synth chords shifting through the electronic pulses and effects; it’s effective, but not especially interesting. Half way through the wonderfully-named “An Ass Model Named Lavitka”, and later in “Money Run” and “The Lights Are All Green”, Gregson-Williams engages in some driving hard rock material of a style I have never heard him write before, and which is pretty authentic, but will not appeal to the majority of score listeners for its lack of a classical approach.

It is not until the final moments of “Manhattan Bridge” and the conclusive “You a Yankees Fan?” that Gregson-Williams allows his more melodic side to take center stage, presenting a lovely, if a little bittersweet, piano and string melody to underscore the film’s emotional finale. The Taking of Pelham 123 is a rather middle-of-the-road score, neither offensive nor particularly enjoyable, and it’s only Gregson-Williams’ talent as a composer which stops it from being deathly dull. If you enjoyed his work on films such as Spy Game, Déjà Vu, or Man on Fire then this kind of thing will also appeal to your sensibilities; for everyone else, it’s a non-essential purchase.

Rating: **½

Track Listing:

  • Something on the Track (4:36)
  • It’s Me, Man! (4:09)
  • Rigged Contracts (3:44)
  • An Ass Model Named Lavitka (6:25)
  • Money Run (1:04)
  • Garber Meets Ryder (3:06)
  • All Others Pay Cash (5:37)
  • The Train Leaves the Station (3:51)
  • The Lights Are All Green! (5:14)
  • Manhattan Bridge (5:06)
  • You A Yankees Fan? (1:59)

Running Time: 44 minutes 51 seconds

Columbia Records Digital Download (2009)

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