Neeson's fourth collaboration with Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra (Non-Stop) flashes some moments of inspiration, such as an opening montage that pays tribute to the routines of everyday commuters and the multicultural melting pot that frequents public transportation.
The first 10 or 15 minutes of "The Commuter" are actually pretty cool.
Like many a Collet-Serra protagonist, Michael endures much punishment throughout The Commuter - some of it, as with one close-quarters battle involving a guitar, presented in spectacular extended-take fashion. Then, on his journey home, a mysterious stranger (Vera Farmiga) appears with a lucrative, morally challenging, proposal: if he agrees to use his skills to find and identify someone on the train before it reaches a particular station, he will be paid a hefty fee. From there, however, screenwriters Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle pull one movie-cliche punch after another. Most of the red herrings and plot twists that The Commuter throws out are easy to spot ahead of time, and the actual solution to the larger conflict is clearly telegraphed early on in the narrative. It's a Neeson vehicle so this doesn't really come as any type of surprise. Flung jobless into the mad swirl of midday Manhattan, with a spouse on the line inquiring about their kid's college-tuition payments, Michael is shell-shocked - an existential state well-suited to the handsomely aged Neeson's gaunt, somewhat gangly aspect. The movie also incorporates some stylistic flourishes (sped up motion, sequence shots seemingly created in post-production) in these scenes, to further spice things up.
I have to let you in on a little secret: if I'm home alone, have no work hanging over my head, all the shows I'm now watching are caught up, there's nothing I have to watch for work and no Okjas or other zeitgeist-y things I feel I have to watch, I'm gonna turn towards Liam Neeson... or Nicolas Cage.
Collet-Serra is known for infusing his B-grade movies with slick production values, and that remains the case with The Commuter.More news: Mobile gantry rolled back to reveal Delta 4 rocket at Vandenberg
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The Commuter is neither Neeson nor Collet-Serra's best thriller yet, but it's a perfectly serviceable genre movie that delivers everything audiences expect from Neeson's action films nowadays - to a fault. The director typically makes good use of the environments in his films, be it the inescapable inside of the airplane from Non-Stop or the lovely and isolated beach in The Shallows. The camerawork from cinematographer Paul Cameron becomes a character in its own right.
How many times do we have to see this movie?
The Commuter is out in theaters on Friday, Jan. 12. "If my male co-star, who has a higher quote than me but believes we are equal, takes a pay cut so that I can match him, that changes my quote in the future and changes my life".
The Commuter begins playing in USA theaters nationwide tonight.