Simply put, Tony Scott's The Taking of Pelham 123 (A) is fucking awesome. Bloody, profane, and obsessively stylish, it's a crisply written two-hander with juicy performances from Denzel Washington as the morally conflicted hero and a sneering, cussing John Travolta, in one of his best performances, as the psychopathic villain. It's clear he loved the role; he's in Face/Off territory here. Make no mistake: this film isn't going to win awards. It's not gonna make top 10 lists. It's just a souped up genre film. But what it does is take a well-worn narrative (the hostage crisis thriller scenario) and amp up the thrills and excitement with sexy cinematography and flashy editing techniques, which makes for a fast-moving piece of hard-edged entertainment. Tony Scott brings the visceral in all of his movies; this one is no exception. My first thought is that Pelham played liked a totally bad-ass cross between Man on Fire and Crimson Tide. And that, at the end of the day, is what Tony Scott is all about -- being a total fuckin' bad ass. Hell -- I know this for a fact as I worked for the guy. In a Tony Scott film, the star of the movies is the man behind the camera. It doesn't really matter what the plot is, or who is starring in it. The guy's an auteur of the first order -- something that no elitist "critic" might want to admit, but deep down inside, they know is true. Over the last 30 years, Scott (and his brother, Ridley), have done more to set the visual standards employed by their peers than maybe anybody else out there (Spielberg is an exception). Guys like Bay and Fincher and Spike Jonze and Johnathan Glazer (just to name a few) have all been clearly influenced by what Scott has been doing. And even though he's almost pushing 70 years old, Scott is showing no signs of slowing up. His films keep getting bolder, faster, more intense, and more visually audacious. Just watch Domino; the guy practically re-invented the wheel with that film. Watching his movies is like watching two hours of Picasso-esque images (only moving) while tripping on a bit of mescalin; it's like Scott's operating in some sort of acid-tinged cubist form. I love how impressionistic his cinematography can be; even the simplest of shots and situations are gussied up with camera calisthenics. In Pelham, he's working with shooter Tobias Schleisser, who shot Friday Night Lights and Hancock for Peter Berg (another young helmer who would probably name Scott as an influence). I realize that I have barely touched on the story of Pelham -- but if you've seen the trailer, you know the deal. Travolta is really pissed off. He holds up an NYC subway car and demands $10 million from the mayor (a perfectly cast James Gandolfini). Denzel Washington is the man on the other end of the microphone as Walter Garber, an MTA employee with a questionable past. The crafty screenplay by Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Man on Fire, Mystic River) is loaded with terrific zingers for Travolta, some solid comedic moments, and gets down to nasty business whenever the time calls for it. This is a happily R-rated adult-oriented actioner that only someone like Tony Scott could do these days. When people get shot in this movie, the squibb guy definitely earned his pay for the day. There's a great shoot-out towards the finale, some wonderful vehicular acrobatics, and lots of manly showdowns between the two leads. It's loud, aggressive, and ass-kicking. I fucking loved every moment of it.