Catholic guilt and `Pelham 123'

[caption id="attachment_3401" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="At the controls."]At the controls.[/caption]I wasn't expecting any theology when I went to see the new version of The Taking of Pelham 123. But in a very deliberate way, the film early on sets up the bad guy, played by John Travolta, as a Catholic. For much of the film, it's one of the few things we know about him. The film seems to take it as a given that being Catholic qualifies the subway hijacker as an expert on guilt - others' guilt, not his own. "A good Catholic knows that nobody is innocent," the bad guy opines. This allows him to zero in on the moral weaknesses of the people trying to stop his ride of terror on the New York City subway - in particular, of transit dispatcher Walter Garber, played by Denzel Washington. It allows the director to raise broader themes about guilt vs. innocence, sin, sacrifice and redemption.It's not subtle, but I thought this Catholic motif added a lot to the movie. And it's authentically New York, since Catholicism is such a part of the city's culture.

Paul Moses is the author, most recently, of The Italian Squad: The True Story of the Immigrant Cops Who Fought the Rise of the Mafia (NYU Press, 2023). He is a contributing writer. Twitter: @PaulBMoses.

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