Denzel Washington has remained one of the biggest stars in Hollywood for decades now, and is one of very few actors or actresses that are capable of driving a movie to success based on the strength of their personal brand alone. The 65 year-old has a track record of hits that would make any of his peers envious, and when you see his name above the title, you know that a solid performance is guaranteed regardless of the genre.
The two-time Academy Award winner tends to jump between the action-driven thrillers that built his reputation as a draw and the smaller-scale independent dramas that give him the chance to stretch his dramatic muscles, but very rarely do you see Denzel Washington attached to either a bad movie or a bomb. Nearly everything he makes is enjoyable and he elevates every film that he’s in.
One of the more underrated movies he’s done is The Taking of Pelham 123, which landed on Netflix yesterday and marks the first of two consecutive $100 million flicks that Washington made with director Tony Scott that largely took place on a train. A remake of the 1974 adaptation of a 1973 novel, Pelham sees Scott using all of his signature visual flourishes to make the inside of a train car seem like the most tension-filled and action-packed place in the world.
John Travolta does some decent scenery-chewing as the over-the-top villain facing off against Denzel Washington‘s mild-mannered everyman, and while the story beats and characters are about as formulaic as you can get, the effort put in by the director and the cast elevates The Taking of Pelham 123 well above the mediocrity you’d expect from such a familiar-feeling star-powered thriller. Put it this way, if you’ve got a couple of hours to kill, there are far worse ways to spend them than checking it out on Netflix.