A Good Thing You Can Watch on Streaming: The Taking of Pelham 123
Weirdly this isn't the only really good thriller starring Walter Mathau. Sadly, Charley Varrick is a good thing you cannot find on streaming.
What is it: A tense heist thriller set in the gritty shit-hole version of New York city that seemed to exclusively populate movies from the late 1970's and early 80's. Every sky is gray, every coat is faded and brown, and everybody looks tired and cold all the time.
Four machine gun-toting sociopaths take over a single New York City subway train and hold its passengers hostage for a $1 million ransom.
Why You Should Watch: It's a great thriller. All four hostage-takers (including Robert Shaw) are icy-cool and terrifying. In contrast to the working-class schlubs (including Walter Mathau) who operate New York's Transit Authority. Seriously, everybody other than the killers is a professional wise ass.
But unsurprisingly, the subway system serves as a metaphor for New York's corrupt and dying heart.
Directed by television veteran Joe Sargent, The Taking of Pelham 123 is almost as much a tone poem about a city that spent much of the late 20th century trying to fight its own overwhelming sense of desperation and decay as a thriller.
Despite, this it's not bleak a film. It takes a long time to get to the action sequences, but when they do happen they are crackerjack.
And it's very quotable, some choice examples:
- "Screw the goddamn passengers, what did they expect for their 35 cents? To live forever?,
- "We're trying to run a city not democracy!"
- "Excuse me, sir. Would you mind telling us now how much you're getting?… Why is that of interest to you, sir?… Well, a person likes to know his worth… One million dollars… That's not so terrific."
- "Mr. Mayor, there's no reason for the hijackers to shoot at you… Why, are they from out of town?"
And so forth.
Why You Might Not Want to Watch It: It's not a bleak movie, but it's still tense as hell and paints a deeply cynical picture of human nature and city life in general.
Where You Can Watch It: The Taking of Pelham 123 is streaming on Amazon Prime.