this point in his career, John Travolta is much more effective as a villain than as a bland everyman (or a woman under thirty pounds of latex). For whatever reason, he seems to have lost the ability to portray a normal human being. The last time I bought him in a conventional dramatic role was probably A Civil Action, but, even then, there was a studied quality to his performance, as if he were running through a list of thoughts and emotions that might occur to or be expressed by people who don’t own a small fleet of airplanes and… who don’t own a small fleet of airplanes.

But while he’s been a serviceable bad guy in some very bad movies, he hasn’t come close to the unhinged heights of Face/Off, where he did Nic Cage much better than Cage did Travolta (or himself, come to think of it). So it’s encouraging to hear that he is "negotiating" to take the Robert Shaw role opposite Denzel Washington’s Walter Matthau in Tony Scott’s remake of The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3.

The pairing of Travolta with Washington (and Scott) means the testosterone quotient is going to get upped considerably from Joseph Sargent’s original. But losing the shaggy charm of the original doesn’t mean Scott’s going to make a boringly random action flick out of David Koepp’s screenplay. The premise is solid enough to survive a modern reworking; better this than a foolish attempt to recapture that Matthau thing. ‘Cuz whatever that Matthau thing was, it died with him.

The Taking of Pelham 1, 2, 3 will be made and distributed by Columbia Pictures. Shooting is scheduled to begin in ’08.