12 Jun 2009 11:40 pm   //   Filed under: Movies, Transit

Mistakes in “The Taking of Pelham 123”

The remake of “The Taking of Pelham 123,” I have to admit, is better than the 1974 original, which I own on DVD and have seen at least five times. But nobody said the original was a great movie. What made it notable was it’s attention to detail. Almost every reference to New York City geography in the original is absolutely accurate. It was one of those rare New York movies that respected the intelligence of trivia-obsessed New Yorkers.

I follow trains the way some people follow sports, so I was interested in whether the film was accurate in regard to the New York City subway, the setting where all of the action takes place. How did it do?

There are some strong moments, including a sharp reference to rerouting trains on the Broadway line, and a scene that weighs the merits of trains built by Kawasaki versus Bombardier. The climactic scene on the Manhattan Bridge was an amazing feat of filmmaking logistics. Good.

But there are some big problems with the movie’s geography, as well.

  • A downtown Lexington Avenue train ends up on the Brighton line to Coney Island. Those tracks don’t even connect.
  • The film relocates the Waldorf Hotel from 49th and Park to 33rd and Lex.
  • The film relocates MTA headquarters from downtown Brooklyn to lower Manhattan.
  • A police motorcade traveling from downtown Brooklyn to Grand Central Terminal crosses the Queensboro Bridge on the way there, which would be several miles out of the way.
  • At one point the mayor is described as being on a 6 Train that’s five stops away from 59th Street, and his train is seen stopped at an elevated platform. All the stations within five stops of 59th Street are below ground.
  • Several different train cars were used as the main car in the film, and they don’t match. Watch the doors of the 6 train during the film. In exterior shots they’re flat vertically, but in interior shots they’re curved outward slightly, as in the wider-bodied subway cars.

It’s too bad these continuity problems weren’t ironed out, as they were in the original. Still, the move is much better than I expected—too good to be ruined by transit geek trivia. It’s still 1,000 times better than “Money Train.”