Friday, January 12, 2018

Short take: Jaume Collet-Serra's thriller, THE COMMUTER, offers Liam Neeson and foolish fun

If you're anything like me and find Liam Neeson the kind of actor who almost never disappoints, even if the occasional movie he inhabits may, little could keep you away from his latest, titled THE COMMUTER and once again directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (of Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night), the trailer for which has been screening in theaters for what seems like at least the past six months. That trailer, as usual, gives away far too much and lays out practically the whole plot.

Even so, there are enough surprises up the sleeves of its three credited screenwriters to keep us interested, while Collet-Serra (below) directs with enough panache that we enjoy even some of the more nonsensical portions.

Our beleaguered hero (Neeson) has so much happen to him in the course of a single day, even before he steps onto the commuter train -- whose route appears to begin as part of the NYC subway system and then change somehow to that of Metro-North (though maybe things have drastically changed since I left the city three years ago) -- that the poor guy will immediately have your complete sympathy. In any case, before you can say Vera Farmiga (who plays the poor guy's antagonist), he is knee-to-neck deep in big-time trouble. One of the things that makes the movie so much fun is the terrific casting of every last one of the roles.

In addition to Neeson and Farmiga (above), we have Sam Neill, (below), Patrick Wilson (further below), and Elizabeth McGovern -- all of whom are rather wasted, as their roles don't amount to much at all. Yet it's always enjoyable to see them on screen, so this remain a plus. Even better are the many more unsung performers who plays the other folk traveling on this bound-for-hell train.

The plot takes a multitude of twists and turns, half of which are smart and half nonsense -- but all turn out to be rather fun. Toward the finale the movie even delivers its own "I am Spartacus" moment, which is so embarrassingly stolen that seniors in the audience will wince. But even this ends with a good laugh.

The Commuter may turn out to be this year's Kidnap, that Halle Berry movie that was by turns utterly ridiculous and slam-bang fun. Any way you look at it, as mindless entertainment goes, you could do a hell of a lot worse than boarding this particular train.

From Lionsgate and running 104 minutes,. the movie opens wide today. To find the theater(s) nearest you, simply click here.

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