The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (Joseph Sargent, 1974)
If you aren’t aware of it, let me let you in on a little secret… Walter Matthau kicks ass. Known more for the Neil Simon comedies he did with Jack Lemmon, Matthau should best be remembered for a trio of films he made in the early ’70s — Charley Varrick, The Laughing Policeman, and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.
Matthau stars as Lt. Zachary Garber, a transit worker who gets stuck between a quartet of criminals who took a subway train hostage and the bureaucracy of City Hall. With his hangdog expression, Matthau perfectly plays Garber as someone trying to do the right thing despite everyone around him. Also along for the ride are a cadre of character actors including Kenneth McMillan, Jerry Stiller, Hector Elizondo, Martin Balsam, and Robert Shaw as the criminal mastermind behind the heist. This is the film that gave Quentin Tarantino the idea to use colors instead of names for the robbers in Reservoir Dogs.
Remade once already as a TV movie with Edward James Olmos in the Garber role, a new remake is due out in June. Trust me, the original is the way to go with this one. Stick It In Your Queue.