Don't commit to Liam Neeson in 'The Commuter'


These two playing off of each other makes for great conflict and I'd love to see them work together again.

Liam Neeson is the same character he always plays in his action films, a seemingly mild-mannered and slightly hapless man who can turn utterly ferocious when circumstances require it.

Liam Neeson's latest action flick, "The Commuter", which hit theaters Friday, takes place on a commuter train the most seasoned riders may recognize as an embellished version of Metro-North. What has followed has been a decade of lean, blunt and glum thrillers (three "Taken" movies, "Non-Stop", "The Grey") anchored by the looming and still quite potent presence of Neeson. That everyday routine gets shaken up courtesy of Michael's company letting him go, the 60-year-old now faced with an overbearing challenge.

Joanna, flirty at first and menacing not long after, challenges him to find an unknown passenger on the train-a stranger on the train, you might say-and slap a Global Positioning System locator on their bag before they pull into the last stop on the line. She asks him to find one person on the train who "does not belong. If I identify him, someone on this train is gonna kill him". It becomes a race against time for the one-time officer of the law to sort out the mystery on the train, save his family from an uncertain fate, and punch a few people in the head for good measure. However, Neeson is just so darn good in this type of movie. One fight scene in particular is framed as a single continuous shot a la Atomic Blonde, and while not as impressive it certainly delivers one of the most memorable weapons that Neeson has ever wielded in a film. But that's not to deny the transient pleasures of "The Commuter", a film that enthusiastically puts the humble passenger vehicle through nearly as many mechanical acrobatics as any "Fast and Furious" hot rod, in the process gifting us with the line, "Between the train and the people, I always knew it would be the train". The film plays out precisely as you expect it to, and the reveals of the mystery offer very little of substance. The plot mechanics don't matter almost so much as the visceral feelings of strength and relevance that a film like this imbues, and sometimes it's nice just to get caught up in a stupid fantasy. The supporting players are also doing commendable work here, chief among them being Farmiga, who effortlessly enhances the mysterious nature of her antagonist character.

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In the end, "The Commuter" is the cinematic version of mashed potatoes and gravy - the same thing you've had a thousand times before, but satisfying all the same.

My advice for anybody planning to travel on mass transit - if you see Liam Neeson, change your travel plans. Still, The Commuter gives fans of B-level entertainment exactly what they want, and it's hard to fault any film that does that.

The action escalates, with Neeson nervously traversing the length of the train enough times to either look like a terrorist himself or someone at extreme risk of deep vein thrombosis.

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