These days with union wages, insurance costs and litigation risks it seems like few movies are shot on location. Now days we tend to rave about the realism when a movie is shot on greenscreen and the CGI backdrop of New York City looks 'just like the Real Thing."
It wasn't always like that.
Back in the '70s, a movie like Serpico or The French Connection would be shot in the streets of NYC, in all the grit and peeling paint of the real thing.
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three was shot in (and under) the streets of New York.
(The Pelham 123 refers to a subway train that left the Pelham station at 1:23. Cars are assigned the name of the station they left that morning)
Four heavily armed men has hijacked the Pelham 123 train. They have 18 hostages and will start killing them if they don't have one million dollars in an hour.
Yeah, I know one million isn't a lot nowadays (I think that's my credit card limit) this was '74, so go with it.
The transit authorities are puzzled. Why would anyone hijack a subway train? And how do they plan to get away? As pointed out several times, they're on a train, in a tunnel, underground. But one of the cool aspects of this movie is seeing the criminals plot play out and how the various criminal personalities interact.
If this sounds like a Quentin Tarantino film, it was an influence on him. The gang goes by color names (Mr. Grey, Mr. Brown, etc.) and while it's never explored, they don't know each other, both of which are similar to Reservoir Dogs.
The Transit Authority Police Chief is played by Walter Matthau, who does a great job as a harried bureaucrat who's really over his head.
If you're looking for something beyond CGI sets, kung-fu wire tricks and hair gel heros, something with a real plot, real story and yes, real locations, I suggest you seek out "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three." I give it 2 thumbs up!
p.s. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is rated R. As far as I can tell its for profanity; the was no nudity or gore. Nobody got their ear cut off.
p.s.s. As I was stealing er, gathering graphics for this review, I read they are remaking this movie. I'd see this before watching the new version. I hate remakes!