If you have watched the trailers for “The Commuter” and felt like it looked all-too-familiar, there is a pretty good reason for that. After the success of “Taken” (and its’ sequels), Liam Neeson has teamed up with director Jaume Collet-Serra on four, man-against-all-odds features. There was 2011’s “Unknown” (which is my personal favorite of the lot), 2014’s “Non-Stop”, 2015’s “Run All Night, and now 2018’s “The Commuter” which is basically “Non-Stop” on a train. They could have easily made this a sequel to the airplane thriller and called it “A Few Stops” (get it? Because it’s on a train). Anyways, despite “The Commuter” being more of the same, it still manages to be mildly entertaining, although not very thrilling.
I love the film’s opening where we see Michael MacCauley (Neeson) going through a montage of the start-of-his-day. It’s really, well done. During the montage we see various moods and exchanges between Michael, his wife and his son. From there, “The Commuter” becomes run-of-the-mill. Michael has just been let-go from his job as an insurance salesman. From there he meets his long-time friend and former police partner Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson) for a drink before heading home.
On the commute home, Michael meets a woman named Joanna (Vera Farminga) who tells him that he can earn a hundred thousand dollars if he can locate someone on the train that doesn’t belong. There is twenty-five thousand hidden in the bathroom and the rest will be awarded with the job is done. Michael takes the money, even though he knows deep down there is something shady about the whole thing. Over the next 90 or so minutes we follow Michael as he walks back-and-forth from each train-car trying to complete his task. However, the further along he goes, the more dangerous things become. This includes the murder of a federal agent.
What I liked about “The Commuter” was the casting of the other passengers. Jonathan Banks and Kobna Holdbrook-Smith were interesting as Walt and Oliver, although like most of the other passengers, they weren’t given a whole lot to do. The biggest problems with “The Commuter” is that it’s just the same thing we have seen time and time again from Neeson. There is nothing new here. Sure, we have seen other actors take on similar roles many times, but Neeson is a much better actor than many other action stars. He is capable of so much more. These are nothing more than “paycheck” roles and we can feel it. Neeson looks bored, and it had become boring watching him go through the motions, especially now that he is in his 70’s. It is the direction by Collet-Serra that allows this thriller to be at least serviceable. If you are a fan of the other Neeson action films, then you will probably like this one as well. It’s a little bit better than most.
By: Marc Ferman