The immediate comparison with Unstoppable may be 2009’s Taking of Pelham 123, also starring Denzel Washington and directed by Tony Scott. However, Pelham is more like Under Siege than Unstoppable. Starring Washington as a veteran engineer and Chris Pine as a new conductor, who some believe only has the job because of his familial connections, there’s some tension between the pair initially, but of course throughout the course of the film they become buddies.
As can happen in any job, people became too casual about their responsibilities, but when there’s massive trains involved things obviously became a lot scarier. When Dewey, played by Ethan Suplee from TV’s My Name is Earl doesn’t apply the air brakes when he jumps off a train to switch the tracks, he can’t catch up to it again. From then on it’s a perfect storm of events involving the unmanned train heading to populated areas, its highly combustible cargo, etc. There’s also convenient things dumped into the plot such as the fact that both Washington and Pine, who are trying to catch up to the train have strained family relationships, to help us become emotionally invested in these working class heroes, and an expert in…everything who just happens to be visiting the control office so he can give useful advice. Oh, and an evil corporate boss who Rosario Dawson can shout at on our behalf.
The film, like the train, does move at a steady pace though, so all these expected developments can be forgiven and as it’s a Tony Scott film, it has a great earthy grain and palette to it all. I actually found it more exciting than I expected it to be.
Salt has gained a fair bit of attention, because the original lead character was written for Tom Cruise, but here Angelina Jolie proves that anything he can do, she can do better, and really it’s the kind of role we’ve seen him in may times before. The plot about covert Russian spies has more twists than a pretzel. In fact it has so many in the second half it could easily have become a laughable mess, but Aussie director Phillip Noyce never lets it get unwieldy and the woman on the run and the search for the truth ploys serve the film well. At certain points it does become ridiculous though, especially early on, when an elderly Russian man takes out a bunch of surly dudes in a lift, and later when Jolie does the same. Her bony girl arms are supposed to take out guys twice the size of her with one punch? I don’t think so. For the most part the action scenes are exciting enough though.
The Expendables is great and I hope they bring Van Damme into the sequel. And Mr.T. And Seagal.
Sylvester Stallone set out to make a film that was a throwback to those so prominent in the ’80s, filled with machismo, and he’s achieved that indeed. There is a lack of chemistry early in the film between him and his manly co-stars (Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren,etc) but it works better in the latter half. The action is deliberately over the top and impressive and it’s not as bloody as I would’ve expected, which is a nice change of pace in today’s market. Stallone, Arnie and Bruce Willis do indeed have a great, though short, scene together and with ageing tough guys like Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts thrown in for good measure, it’s definitely an entertaining film for the fellas.