“The Commuter” Review: pretty average commute for new Liam Neeson film

By Erik Jimenez

You know, it’s still shocking that if you told someone 15 years ago that the guy who played Rob Roy would be one of the most popular action stars of the 21st century, they would consider it a good joke. But now that “Taken” is nearly 10 years old and there has been over half a dozen successful films with Liam Neeson in them, it feels rather rote at this point. His newest film reunites him with his ‘Unknown’ and “Non-Stop” director, Jaume-Colette Serra, and delivers exactly what it promises for that January movie season where not many movies come out and there are just a few niches that need to be filled until Blockbusters come roaring back into theaters after the Oscars.

Neeson plays former cop Michael MacCauley who goes through the same routine prior to his daily commute to work as an insurance salesman. He spends time with his wife and son before boarding the train to work.  

On this particular day though, Michael is laid off. His bad day gets even worse when on the train ride home, he is joined by a mysterious woman known only by the name of Joanna (Vera Farmiga). She tells him that there is a compartment on the train containing $25,000, plus another $75,000 in cash and that he can have it as long as he helps find someone who is using the alias “Prynne” before the last stop.

Unfortunately, it’s too good to be true as he is unwittingly recruited into a murder conspiracy that involves all the usual Neeson thriller stuff. Family, Friends, the past, the future of the city, bombs, guns and so on. Of course, Neeson has the particular set of skills to handle the situation, silly. There wouldn’t be a movie if he didn’t.

Jaume-Colette Serra is unique in his films in that a lot of them (whether they star Neeson or not) usually take place in one location for cheaper than usual budgets. Any up and coming filmmakers who want to make their movies on the low should look into his style and direction for tips and tricks.

The twists and turns of the film are a mixed bag and that’s because the script can’t help but play out like a watered-down version of “Taken” meets “Die Hard” meets Hitchcock. The twists are at their best when they channel Hitchcock and at their worst when they realize it’s a Liam Neeson action film and opt for going that route. Neeson and the cast and crew are giving it all, but it can’t help but feel like we’ve seen this in other Neeson films before. The ending itself is also rather disappointing due to it.

There are some big names in the supporting cast including Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill and Elizabeth McGovern and they all do a solid job in their roles, but the rest of the supporting cast on the train feels like they only acting credits they had were from student films. They are probably doing their best, but they just can’t level up to veterans like Neeson and Farmiga.

‘The Commuter’ has its moments and if you really wish to see it and a big Liam Neeson fan, it’s not going to hurt you. But if you’re low on money and wish to save for another film worth seeing on the big screen, the film does fine on streaming. I could imagine the film being fun to watch on your smartphone, tablet, or computer on your commute somewhere. Particularly if you have to take the Amtrak.

3 stars out of 5

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