Hollywood’s love affair with ’70s cinema is certainly well documented. From the Andersons (Wes and Paul Thomas) to Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, the already forgotten Duplicity), director after director has taken the styling pioneered by filmmakers like Robert Altman and Sydney Pollack and co-opted it for their own personal successes. And huzzah to that! But why, then, when it comes to plotting, do the same people that so clearly worship those seminal filmmakers disregard the actual decade they lived through?
We thought of this during the relentlessly mediocre exercise that was The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. The film, a remake of the 1974 film of a similar name (the original version spells out One Two Three; the new version has no time for such pursuits), has nothing really holding it to modern times other than the feeling of “just because.” Sure, the current economic climate is ever-present, Google is used with reckless abandon and the word “terrorist” is uttered in hushed tones, but this is a story that could have easily occurred in another decade. (We’re not history buffs or anything, but we’re pretty sure the economy sucked in 1974, too.)
So then why did director Tony Scott feel the need to update the proceedings? Call it the bias of history. Only ’70s period pieces remain locked inside the isolation of past events. Think about it: The ’50s are always a popular choice for random genre goodness (Revolutionary Road! L.A. Confidential!); ditto the ’60s, which are so overdone at this point a moratorium needs to be called (though not against Mad Men); and everyone loves the ’80s (The Wedding Singer, hello!). But since Boogie Nights and The Ice Storm were released 12 years ago, nearly all the major films set during the Me Decade—Milk, Zodiac, Summer of Sam, Frost/Nixon, American Gangster—have had an historical lean. No offense to those movies, but where is the sprawling character study—like Dazed and Confused—that just so happens to exist in the ’70s? What about the thrilling action film—like The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 could have been—without ties to Vietnam? We want ’70s films to be something other than a history lesson—something more natural and organic. Unfortunately, it looks like Mr. Scott will continue to be the fly in our revival ointment: The director is planning to update his remake of The Warriors for modern times. Can you dig it? Yeah, us neither.