Written by Old Bluffer 5th Jun 2009
Written by Kooshmeister
Bernard Ryder, alias "Mr. Blue," is the former mercenary turned life insurance salesman who along with Harold Longman, alias "Mr. Green," concocted the fiendishly brilliant get-rich-quick to hold a subway train (the titular Pelham 123) for a ransom of $1 million dollars. Despite his seemingly milquetoast exterior he has a very cold and ruthless personality and, unlike a lot of villains, actually seems to care about his henchmen, the way a military commander would care about his soldiers.
Up until a point, Blue and Green's plan has been perfect. They only asked for a million dollars because this is a number the New York authorities can wrap their heads around. Anything higher would've been preposterous, not to mention difficult to obtain in the time limit Blue sets. And, having gotten their money, the villains have a rather ingenious means of escaping. A large part of the reason the transit authorities initially do not take Blue and his cohorts seriously is the fact that they hijacked a subway train, meaning they're in a subway tunnel, from which escape seems impossible, especially since the train is equipped with a "deadman's switch," which requires someone to be in the motorman's cab in order for the train to even move.
But Blue thought around this, and with Green's assistance he rigs up a means of bypassing the deadman's switch, which allows the train to drive without the need for a motorman. And so with the train in motion, Blue and friends simply jump off and let the train take off down the tunnel, the idea being that the police will believe they are still aboard with the hostages, allowing them time to make their getaway. However a number of different factors combine to throw a wrench into Blue's carefully-laid plans.
The first is Lieutenant Zachary Garber, with whom Blue has had radio contact throughout the film, and who has become the lead hijacker's personal nemesis of sorts. Garber is intelligent enough to know a good idea when he hears it. And when another policeman suggests the thieves may not be on the moving train anymore, Garber realizes he could be right. What if the hijackers found a means of disabling the deadman's switch? Thus he takes it upon himself to go down to where Pelham 123 last stopped and where indeed the hijackers are regrouping, and having a few problems in getting a move on.
The first problem is easily dealt with. Insubordinate lunatic Mr. Grey clashes with Mr. Blue for the last time, and is blown away by his not-to-be-trifled-with leader. Then, while Blue has Mr. Green relieve the dead Grey of his share of their money, they get an unexpected guest. One of the train passengers, a hippie, was actually an undercover policeman, gun and all, and he jumped off of the train at the same time they did. Despite having injured himself in doing so, he manages to shoot and kill Mr. Brown. Severely put out, Blue takes up a defensive position and begins exchanging gunfire with the undercover officer, instructing his last remaining man, Mr. Green, to make a break for it.
Green promptly vacates the premises, unnoticed by the arriving Lt. Garber, who is drawn to the sounds of the gunfire. He arrives just in time. The hurt hippie is out of ammo and Mr. Blue walks over to him and prepares to kill him with a gunshot to the head, when Garber arrives and points his own weapon at his heretofore unseen enemy.
"'Scuse me, fellow, would you mind dropping that gun and turning around, please?" Garber asks politely.
Annoyed, Blue does so. He attempts to bribe his would-be captor: "Officer, I don't suppose you could use a quarter of a million dollars?"
"Quarter of a million?" Garber replies. "Sorry, but my account says I've accepted enough for this fiscal."
Unamused, Blue then asks the Lieutenant a rather odd question. "Do you people still execute in this state?"
Garber seems taken aback by this question, as though he doesn't quite know how to answer it. But ultimately he replies that no, as far as he knows, New York no longer has the death penalty. "Pity," Mr. Blue sighs, and then proceeds to deliberately step on the subway track's third rail, electrocuting himself to death, his own judge, jury and executioner.
Precisely why Mr. Blue opts to kill himself despite knowing that he wouldn't be given the death penalty is never elaborated upon. John Godey's novel is of no help. There, Bernard Ryder just gets shot in the head following a confrontation with the police. However, my opinion is that Blue was just too proud to be taken alive. That, or he believed that what he had done warranted such a punishment (which doesn't mean he's sorry, just that in his own twisted way he's dotting all his I's and crossing all his T's). Or both. And possibly he just figures that if he's gonna go, he's gonna go on his own terms, not Garber's or anyone else's.