In early afternoon, four armed men hijack a subway train in Manhattan. They stop on a slight incline, decoupling the first car to let the rest of the train coast back. Their leader is Ryder; he connects by phone with Walter Garber, the dispatcher watching that line. Garber is a supervisor temporarily demoted while being investigated for bribery. Ryder demands $10 million within an hour, or he’ll start shooting hostages. He’ll deal only with Garber. The mayor okays the payoff, the news of the hostage situation sends the stock market tumbling, and it’s unclear what Ryder really wants or if Garber is part of the deal. Will hostages, kidnappers, and negotiators live through this?
User Reviews: It started like any ordinary day; that’s likely what N.Y.C. subway dispatcher Walter Garber, an employee of questionable character, was thinking when he got up and went to work in the morning. Little did he know that he’d become the confidant and ‘stand-in’ hostage negotiator for a prickly criminal mastermind who takes over the Pelham subway train and demands money in exchange for the lives of its passengers. Hearing the names Washington, Travolta, and Scott creates a lot of anticipation, but unfortunately what wants to be a slick combination of suspense thriller and character study instead results in a ponderous film with a weak setup, predictable plot twists, shallow characters, and little tension. It’s easy to watch with actors of Washington and Travolta’s caliber at work, but Scott’s direction is pretentious and throws out some obligatory action scenes that seem to exist for the sole purpose of padding the time on the way to an expected climax. The leads do what they can with the strained material but really deserve better. **