Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Entertaiment | By Paul Elliott

The Commuter - Official Trailer | Liam Neeson | Vera Farmiga | Patrick Wilson

The Commuter - Official Trailer | Liam Neeson | Vera Farmiga | Patrick Wilson

Once again, Neeson - best known in many circles for goofy action thrillers like "Taken" and "Non-Stop" - is front and center in an action thriller, though "The Commuter" nixes some of the action for more cat-and-mouse thrills, but the end result is the same.

Michael MacCauley (Neeson) is an ex-cop who just lost his job as an insurance salesman, leaving his family in dire financial straits. The Commuter is, in many ways, just like that daily train ride that millions of people take every day: you forget it ever happened the minute you disembark. While on the ride home on the commuter train, he is approached by a unusual woman who proposes a hypothetical: if he could track down one person on the train who doesn't seem to belong and identify them with a Global Positioning System tracking device, would he do so with the promise of a $100,000 reward, regardless of the unknown consequences to the identified party? Michael soon discovers that the woman's proposal is more than hypothetical, and that he's in well over his head. It's an evolution of the save-the-princess model of storytelling, only refitted to aging suburbanite pop culture fans who still want to feel like Han Solo or Clint Eastwood, and it's a niche that Liam Neeson has found himself very comfortable in.

And like the old adage goes, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". The movie goes off the rails somewhat before the train does, but the star gives it the ol' Liam Neeson, which Liam Neeson can do better than anybody. The more the movie throws at us, the more that Michael's suspicions become our own and the more delicious Collet-Serra's excesses become. It has some great action scenes and an ending plot twist that while I predicted, still left me satisfied. The bulk of The Commuter finds Michael nervously playing the role of a detective instead of making him an outright badass. But I sometimes think, 'Who are you fooling?

Look, you already know what you're going into with this movie.

Serra also delights in bringing subtext out from his material.

The Commuter - Official Trailer | Liam Neeson | Vera Farmiga | Patrick Wilson

The Commuter isn't a tough puzzle to solve, and it veers closely to being obvious at times. I also doubt that there has been a modern filmmaker more enamoured by creating a sense of paranoia via people texting and talking on cell phones than Serra.

The skeletal, B-movie plotting is supposed to be self-propelling, but "The Commuter" is too ridiculous to get by on its own momentum. (It's worth noting that the film is a love letter to that director's work through and through, from Rear Window to North by Northwest.) Turns out that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has Joanna on their radar, that other passengers might be playing her game, too, and that she might have cops in her pocket.

And yes, the material is quite silly, overstuffed, and admittedly predictable. If he can locate a specific passenger with a mysterious bag somewhere on the train and plant a Global Positioning System on her/him, for reasons she won't reveal but that surely involve murder, then he gets $100,000 for his finder's fee. But The Commuter is more about the journey than the destination. Should we focus more on life's positives, rather than negatives? In that case, just don't get on the ride. The commuter train leaves from Grand Central, which is accurate, but for some reason, it stops at subway stations as it makes its way through Manhattan.

The Commuter is released in Irish cinemas on Friday January 19.

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