Ageing action hero Liam Neeson needs to save his family once again, only this time he's doing it on a train.
Liam Neeson's later life action career shows no sign of slowing down, and he's back to his butt-kicking best in the ridiculous new film The Commuter, which verges on so bad it's good territory.
While fans of the Taken franchise have seen Neeson do various versions of hero dad Bryan Mills in films like Non-Stop (Taken in the air) and Run All Night (mobster-set Taken), the pace and tension are a little slower in this new movie, but the same sentiment remains at the heart of it.
Neeson plays cop-turned-insurance salesman Michael MacCauley in Jaume Collet-Serra's latest action flick, a regular guy who gets on and off the same train every day as he travels to New York City for his office job.
Because he's been going the same route for 10 years, and because he doesn't get the Tube in London where no one ever utters a word to each other, Michael has become quite pally with some of his fellow commuters. There's Walt (Breaking Bad's Jonathan Banks), who's looking forward to retirement, gambling fan Tony (Andy Nyman) and friendly Sherri (Nila Aalia). So, when the mysterious and glamorous Joanna (Vera Farmiga) tasks Michael with finding the face that doesn't belong, it shouldn't be such a problem for the man who seemingly knows all the train regulars.
Plonking herself beside Michael as he reads through his teenage son's latest book assignment, Joanna charms the recently fired salesman with a 'hypothetical' proposition - find one person on the train based on their nickname, destination and the fact they're carrying a bag, and she'll hypothetically give him $100,000. Only it's not a hypothetical, it's a real offer, and if he doesn't comply, his wife (Elizabeth McGovern) and son (Dean-Charles Chapman) get it. Cue Neeson in fighting mode, with bodies soon piling up left, right and, quite literally, centre, of the commuter train.
The premise of the film is frankly laughable, and there are plenty of unintentional giggles to be had throughout the 104-minute runtime, including the brilliantly bad I am Spartacus scene near the end. But these are toned down by wisps of brilliance from director Collet-Serra, with the opening montage a particular highlight.
Neeson, the 65-year-old actor who once played Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg's mighty Schindler's List, has cleverly positioned himself as the go-to mature actor for vigilante action flicks and is perfect as Michael. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast, including Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, and Sam Neill, are underused, as are the fellow train passengers, who are more like caricatures than real characters, so while tensions run high, you're never really on the edge of your seat. Some of the CGI is below standard too, and the action part of the film felt rushed.
Despite walking away wondering if movie bosses had accidentally forgotten to add comedy as one of the film's genres, The Commuter is mindless cinema at its best, so take your seat and enjoy the ride.
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