That saying about how such and such is "the kind of movie they just don't make anymore": does anyone watching a new movie ever predict that a new movie they're watching will one day occasion that kind of observation? And if so, what movies do forward-thinking viewers say that about.
WARNING: From here on out I'm tossing out spoilers left and right, just because I can't think of any other way to speak intelligently about what I want to say.
When people saw The Taking of Pelham, One, Two, Three in 1974 they likely thought it was just another cops-and-robbers movie, if perhaps a very good one. In context they weren't wrong. But it's very much the kind of movie they don't make anymore, in ways that are kind of a pity.
The basics: A quartet of men wearing obvious, uniform disguises and bearing aliases named after colors, take over a New York subway train. Their icy British leader, Mr. Blue, demands one million dollars within an hour or he'll kill one passenger per minute. A transit cop negotiates with him while trying to figure out and thwart his plan.
The villains, especially blue and the uncontrollable psycho Gray, could be action villains from any period. But in other respects this film probably wouldn't have been made ten years earlier. Definitely not ten years later, much less forty. Consider.
1) Shot on location, it's proudly about New York, the glorious and scary and silly aspects. A little later it's hard not to imagine a lot of the local color being focus grouped out for being too limiting.
2) The hero is played by Walter Matthau. Walter Matthau was a great actor, and a veteran tough guy. But he was also a pudgy middle-aged man with black shoe polish in his hair. In fact if I had to guess I'd say the Hanna-Barbera people had him in mind when they designed Fred Flintstone. Sure, Clint Eastwood still plays lead roles in action movies far into his seventies, but that's dependent on him looking like he could still kick the asses of fit twenty year olds.
2B) His partner is played by Jerry Stiller, who was younger but even less cop-like.
3) Matthau spends most of the movie talking on a phone behind a desk. He seems to belong there. When he goes out in the field it's because time is running out, not because he feels pent up.
4) When Blue's plan is foiled in its latter stages, he asks if New York still has the death penalty. When Matthau's character responds in the negative - the state would bring it back in the nineties but hasn't used it since - he electrocutes himself. Think of that. There's no climactic battle between good and evil, because evil says, "Nah. I'm out." Speed or Die Hard, the latter of which also had a cold Brit as the bad guy, would never go that route.
5) There's another half hour or so in the picture, but it revolves around the pursuit of Mr. Green, who's by far the most sympathetic and least intimidating of the criminals. Although he'd be happy enough to keep the money.
6) The very end of the movie? A sneeze and a knowing look.