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Remake which goes off the tracks

I was never much of a fan of the 1974 original -- even if it did inspire Quentin Tarantino to copy the Mr Whites and so on in the brilliant Reservoir Dogs.

And the remake? It makes the first attempt look like a movie classic. Somehow this outing manages to waste the talents of the likes of Denzel Washington and John Travolta and, for a thriller, well, it's not exactly thrilling.

Which is a shame, given that it's directed by the excellent Tony Scott, and the CGI alone should have brought it roaring into the Noughties. And while there are good action scenes and plenty of high-octane shouting and crashing -- you're left with an empty feeling.

Washington stars as recently demoted New York City Transit Authority official Walter Garber, who's sent to work at the dispatcher's desk amid allegations of bribe-taking.

But his day gets even worse when the Pelham City station is hijacked by four gun-toting criminals and a subway train is hijacked. Led by the manic 'Mr Ryder' (Travolta), the gang demand a ransom of $10 million in 60 minutes -- or they'll kill one hostage for every minute over the hour.

City Mayor (James Gandolfini) despatches a hostage negotiator, played by John Turturro, to sort out the mess, but Ryder will only negotiate with the smooth-talking Garber, sparking off a battle of minds and wills.

The actors do their best with a by-the-numbers script, but Travolta's character is too madcap to take seriously -- he gets seriously OTT when he starts playing mind games with Garber -- and the likes of Gandolfini are criminally underused. A big disappointment, the great train robbery this ain't.

DVD extras: Two commentary tracks and a few making-of featurettes. -- Mark Evans