Liam Neeson gets taken for a ride in 'The Commuter'

Liam Neeson gets taken for a ride in 'The Commuter'”

When asked how the industry could remedy the issue and close the gap, Neeson said he's seen progress.

Ever since "Taken" was a surprise hit in 2009, winter has been the time of Liam Neeson. In an act of particular formal glee, Collet-Serra sends the lens scurrying through the tiny holes that have been punched into the passengers' train tickets. He lives at home with his wife, Karen, (Elizabeth McGovern), and son, Danny (Dean-Charles Chapman). Collet-Serra and his production team take advantage of the film's enclosed setting to stage The Commuter's close quarter fight scenes in a way that makes it believable enough (for the film's purposes) that Neeson's cop turned insurance agent wouldn't be completely overwhelmed by his opponents. Joanna (Vera Farmiga), the mysterious high-heeled figure seated across from Michael on the train, promises a payday - $25,000 in a bag in the bathroom; another $75,000 in cash later - if the desperate family man can identify the passenger that Joanna claims doesn't belong and is carrying a package of potentially fatal importance. One thing leads to another and Michael quickly finds himself blackmailed and hopes to find this suspicious passenger before the train reaches the end of the line. If he does as he's told, he'll get $100,000; if he fails or refuses, his family will die. Make no mistake - Collet-Serra is about as talented a director working in the genre and Neeson the most solidly dependable lead of that same genre, but not a single second of The Commuter feels anything but rote. Instead, it leans into his sixty-five years of experience, showing someone who is both skilled yet helpless. "A$3 ny time you get a call that says, 'Do a movie with them, ' you say yes". Same movie. Train this time.

No one expects much from a Neeson/Collet-Serra vehicle because sometimes they work (Non-Stop) and sometimes they don't (Unknown), but here they seem like a match made in heaven.

We know what you're thinking: Liam Neeson as an older man with "skills", caught up in a perilous situation involving nefarious types - seen it all before, right? You buy Michael as a guy on the ropes who might consider doing a bad thing if it means survival for his family.

The Commuter's initial premise is Hitchcockian in a broad sense, but the resulting film is more of a tepid action movie with a heavy problem-solving element than an actual thriller. The ability to play both sides-the action hero and the everyman-is a rare gift, and Neeson makes the most of it. There's a schlocky Hitchcock vibe to the whole thing with one-take fistfights standing alongside contra-zooms.

Fine, so that last title is from the Seinfeld Movie Universe and not the Collet-Serra/Neeson Movie Universe - but if and when somebody DOES make a film titled "Death Blow", nearly any plot attached to it is likely to be more believable and less predictable than this tedious and sloppy and downright stupid junk.

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