2 out of 5 stars (has some good moments, but is overall bad)
Liam Neeson’s newest action-thriller, The Commuter, brings together everything we’ve come to expect from the acclaimed actor’s crop of action films: a seemingly average guy gets himself entangled into a deep conspiracy while attempting to maintain his sanity, not sure who to trust or how to escape said conspiracy, with the life of his family in danger. If that sounds like Taken, Unknown, or Non-Stop, that’s because it essentially is. The Commuter is nothing but a hodge-podge of elements stolen from better Liam Neeson movies that fails to find its own identity. But I guess I should have expected that, as this is a film released in the second week of January (often deemed “dump month”, where studios will release mediocre films quickly so they will be long forgotten by next Oscar season).
Neeson this time plays Michael, a family man who has just lost his job as an insurance agent (yes, they actually want us to buy Liam Neeson as an insurance agent). Despite his son’s college tuition being due next week, as well as having taken out two mortgages on his house, Michael decides not to tell his wife about the firing because we wouldn’t have a movie if he did.
Riding the train home, Michael is approached by the mysterious Joanna (an eclectically-dressed Vera Farmiga), who tells him that a large amount of money is located in the restroom, and he can have it in exchange for identifying a person on the train who does not belong. Against his better judgement, Michael decides to take the money, initiating a series of events that put him and the other passengers at risk, and me through a test not to fall asleep in my comfy theater seat.
This movie is riddled with problems, the first being two devastating miscasts: Neeson, and Patrick Wilson as his cop friend and ex-partner on the force. Neeson simply doesn’t possess the demeanor to be an average guy, and Wilson is far too young for me to believe they would have worked together in the distant past. The second issue comes with the tone. My initial feeling of tense anticipation was shattered by the writer’s need to insert forced humor into the situation that served only to dampen the suspense, leading to me giving up halfway through and waiting for it to end.
This movie wants so badly to be like Alfred Hitchcock’s old films, but doesn’t understand why they worked. Hitchcock movies (Psycho, The Birds for some examples) were good because they made their worlds and characters feel as realistic as possible before throwing implausibles at us. This movie seems like it will do that, but then has Michael behaving like a lunatic when communicating with the other passengers, eliminating any believability. All of this being said, I, the 23-year-old college grad, am not the target audience for this film, so I might not be the best judge of its merits. The adults in my theater (mostly 50-year-olds) seemed to have a good time.
The Commuter is only a pale imitation of Liam Neeson’s other action-thrillers that is confused on how seriously to take itself. Unrealistic characters and a plot stuffed to the gills with contrivances ultimately make this an overlong and boring time at the movies in my eyes. Skip it and go watch Taken again.
Rated PG-13 Some Intense Action/Violence, and Language