Director Tony Scott's "caffeinated update" of the 1974 "cult classic" The Taking of Pelham 123, said Lisa Schwarzbaum in Entertainment Weekly, is "an open-hydrant whoooosh of an action thriller about a hijacked NYC subway train with passengers held as hostages." Starring John Travolta as the head hijacker and Denzel Washington as the dispatcher on duty, the movie "doesn't shy away from jolting violence" but is also a lot of "fun." (watch the trailer for The Taking of Pelham 123)
When Travolta and Washington "banter back and forth," said Bill Goodykoontz in The Arizona Republic, The Taking of Pelham 123 really is entertaining. But "when they're not—or when, inevitably, they meet face to face—it loses momentum quickly," and there's no "subtlety" to this movie whatsoever.
That's an understatement, said Sean Burns in the Philadelphia Weekly. "Scott's hyperkinetic, entirely unnecessary revamp attempts to update Pelham by cranking the volume and inflating the Noo Yawk attitude to a cartoonish level of macho posturing." And Travolta "is so busy flailing about all over the place that you can't quite get a bead on the character."