Like clockwork every January or February Liam Neeson does a thriller. The Commuter is this year’s. Crime on a train looks a lot like 2014’s airline thriller Non-Stop, which — ironically — is done by the same director, Jaume Collet-Serra. He also directed Neeson in 2011’s Unknown and Run All Night in 2015.
All three pretty much look the same.
This go-round has Neeson as an ex-cop and now life insurance salesman just fired from his job. Under tremendous financial pressure, he meets a woman on his commuter train who tells him there’s $100,000 in it if he can find a witness to a crime who is on the train. If he doesn’t get the task done by the last stop, then his wife and family will be killed.
The first hour and 30 minutes is devoted to a tense and stone-faced Neeson walking back and forth on the train getting into this conflict or that. The last 15 minutes gives us some really tense — and admittedly not bad — but predictable special effects and reveals the witness and the face of the person behind the crime.
Neeson is now more in demand doing voices for animated characters than for deeper roles like Schindler’s List and other films that made him a star. For live action films, he has been forced to evolve into an everyman action hero. They’re all rather two-dimensional — as are the films — but he’s competent and gets the job done.
The scripts and the movies he does — like The Commuter — aren’t as praiseworthy. The Commuter is, fortunately, a short commute, but it demands the suspension of disbelief from the boarding the train to the last stop and — predictably — implodes rather than explodes at the climax.
Movie name: The Commuter
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Stars: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Jonathan Banks, Sam Neill, Elizabeth McGovern
Mr. Movie rating: 2 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It’s playing at the Fairchild Cinemas Pasco and Queensgate 12s, at the AMC Kennewick 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen.
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don’t bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.