Jan. 13, 2018 at 3:17 p.m.
Review: THE COMMUTER (2018)
Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Sam Neill, Elizabeth McGovern, Florence Pugh, Shazad Latif, Letitia Wright, Killian Scott, Clara Lago, Ella-Rae Smith.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
After collaborating on “Unknown,” “Non-Stop,” and “Run All Night,” director Jaume Collet-Serra and actor Liam Neeson give it another go with “The Commuter.” The “Die Hard” meets “Speed” on a train action-thriller starts off promising but derails along the way with ridiculous scenarios and over the top CGI. Neeson is still out to prove that he can handle any skirmish, and for the most part, he gets away with it. However, there are a couple of times that the Irish actor resorts to the Steven Seagal method of self-defense for the 65 and over set, “Everybody was CGI fighting. Those kicks were fast as lightning.”
The film opens with a montage reminiscent of “Groundhog Day” to hammer the message that former NYPD cop Michael McCauley (Neeson) is stuck in a daily routine. He gets up at the same time every morning, chit chats with his son, is dropped off at the train station by his wife (Elizabeth McGovern), and rides a commuter train into New York City to sell life insurance. This has been going on for the last 10 years, but things are about to change for the insurance salesman as the monotony is replaced with chaos.
The day begins with McCauley getting laid off and quickly goes from bad to worse. Faced with a second mortgage, college tuition for his son, and the fact that he’s 60-years old, an opportunity presents itself on the ride back home that seems too tempting to pass up for the former police detective. A mysterious passenger (Vera Farmiga) proposes a hypothetical question that involves finding a passenger on the train in exchange for $100,000. Obviously, she knows that McCauley has “a very particular set of skills” as a former cop that could prove advantageous in such a task. When he realizes that she’s not joking, he takes a $25,000 down payment and the search begins. Big mistake.
Farmiga does a fine job playing the female Hans Gruber as Neeson is forced to carry out the assignment or you know what. Yep, the passengers, his family, everybody dies. The clock is ticking, the train is speeding, and everyone is a suspect. Up to this point, the film had a nice Hitchcock vibe going but then someone had to ruin it for everybody as the events turn preposterous and the special effects get outrageous. The hand to hand combat looks fake and the climax involving all sorts of destruction screams “Mystery Science Theater 3000” but damn Neeson looks good doing what he does best, kicking ass.
‘The Commuter” is a backward step for Collet-Serra after hitting a peak with the Blake Lively shark film “The Shallows” in 2016. If it wasn’t for the terrible second half and silly ending this would be a good film. Neeson is still very entertaining to watch although I’d rather see him in less physical roles that don’t require any CGI assistance. It’s okay to slow down. Sean Connery and Roger Moore stopped playing 007 in their 50’s and Clint Eastwood was 58 when he portrayed Dirty Harry for the last time. Just don’t do what Eastwood did at 65, Liam. Stay away from bridges and out of Madison County.
(2 ½ stars)
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