Someone's let John Travolta off his leash again.

Someone's let John Travolta off his leash again.

That'd be Tony Scott, who in his remake of the 1974 thriller The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 encourages the star to run wild in the mode that made him a perfect counterpoint to Nicolas Cage in Face/Off. All around Travolta, the director goes to ridiculous lengths to make a blood-pumping extravaganza out of what's mostly a tense conversation between two guys.

One is Travolta's Ryder, who leads the hijacking of a New York subway car for a $10 million ransom. The other is Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), a subway dispatcher with a sordid recent history who's forced into the role of hostage negotiator.

As they talk things out, FBI hostage negotiator John Turturro and mayor James Gandolfini mostly stand around on the sidelines, while Scott's camera almost never stops moving.

It swoops around a stationary Washington and comes to a screeching halt at random moments for a freeze frame and time check on the hour allotted to deliver the ransom. That time crunch provides a handy excuse for some out-of-nowhere vehicular carnage.

In other words, it's one obviously calculated move after another. Despite Travolta's loose-cannon energy, as is too often true of Scott's work, this one is too slick to hold onto for long. -Melissa Starker