Liam Neeson + Jaume Collet-Serra > Leonardo DiCaprio + Martin Scorsese
Synopsis: In this action-packed thriller, Michael, an insurance salesman, whose daily commute home quickly becomes anything but routine. After being confronted by a mysterious stranger, Michael is blackmailed into finding the identity of a passenger on his train before the last stop. As he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, Michael is unwittingly caught up in a criminal conspiracy that carries life and death stakes for himself and his fellow passengers. (VVS Films)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, and Patrick Wilson
Writers: Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi, and Ryan Engle
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Rating: 14A (Canada)/PG-13 (United States)
Running Time: 104mins
For showtimes and more, check out The Commuter on movietimes.com.
The best power couple in Hollywood right now is that of dumb action movie superstar tag-team: Liam Neeson and Jaume Collet-Serra. The Commuter is the fourth collaboration between the actor-director duo, and it seems that their efforts of making big dumb action movies will keep chugging along. The Commuter is not by any means a good movie, but for what it is, it absolutely succeeds.
Neeson stars as Michael MacCauley, an ex-cop turned life insurance salesman who is plagued by middle-class, blue collar mundanity (he’s been a regular commuter on the same train for 10 years). Michael is a straight, hard-working man, who relishes in family values but is burdened by financial issues (he actually tells a stockbroker to go f*ck himself at one point). One day, his after-work commute is turned on its head when a peculiar woman (Vera Farmiga) who gives Michael a choice between money, and a person’s life. The Commuter is a fun action movie disguised as a parable of the everyday working man, and for the most part, it’s an entertaining romp.
The action scenes (as expected) are choreographed very well, with a two minute fight sequence being the real crowd-pleaser. Being an ex-cop (and a Liam Neeson movie) it’s expected that he’s gonna kick ass, and yes he does, but he also gets his ass kicked more often than not. The movie takes a little too much time to set up its bare bones plot until it finally delivers us a bonkers third-act set piece that makes no sense whatsoever but is classic, cheesy, CGI goodness.
There’s not really that much to say about the performances, as The Commuter is not a movie anchored by any performance other than Neeson’s. He’s been playing the same character in every movie for the past few years and he’s damn good at it. We also get a Conjuring reunion here as Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson show up, it’s simply too bad they didn’t have any screen time together.
The Commuter’s story may as well have been nonexistent, as it tries way too hard to set-up an abundance of mystery boxes and twists that don’t really go anywhere interesting or have a real lasting impact on the characters. Plot points surface out of the blue, and the illuminati conspiracy theory vibes it gives off felt tacky. The unintentional (or perhaps they were intentional?) hilarious moments were some of the best parts of the film.
Characters are personally searched, interrogated, attacked, and they all apparently seem to be suffering from early onset dementia because none of them really seem to care that much. There are no repercussions, the fallout just floats into nothing. Neeson and company go through a life-altering, hellish experience and they don’t even bring it up again. Like at all. A character makes a noble sacrifice (with a killer final line) and nobody even mentions his/her heroism. It’s sooo funny. The implausible ending was also a killer, with a “stick it to the man” sensation buzzing through the final shot.
Overall, The Commuter doesn’t reach the heights of the previous Neeson and Collet-Serra films, (especially the fantastic Non-Stop) as the basic story and weak script doesn’t challenge the genre or viewer, but it still remains a serviceable action movie elevated by its bombastic action scenes, its silliness, and its blue-collar, middle-class love.
Please follow me on Twitter.