The time for questioning the motives of Liam Neeson’s choice in action movie scripts is over and now we must question his sanity. In his fourth collaboration with director Jaume Collet-Serra (“Non-Stop,” “Run All Night”), Neeson once again takes part in a formulaic action movie that’s predictable and unrealistic. “The Commuter” commits unforgivable cinematic sin with an obvious; “why don’t the bad guys just do xyz” that invalidates the entire plot. What’s equally as bad, “The Commuter” doesn’t offer anything new under the action genre or from the type of characters Neeson has grown old playing. So maybe co-stars like Vera Farmiga (“Source Code”), Patrick Wilson (“The Conjuring”) or Sam Neill (“Hunt for the Wilderpeople”) might save the movie? Nope, they barely get any screen time in their book-end appearances.
What started out as a normal day with a normal commute into the city changes quickly for Michael MacCauley (Neeson) as he is abruptly fired from his insurance job. The ex-cop heads home on his normal train when he is approached by a mysterious woman (Farmiga) who gives him a “little task” that will pay him a lot of money and secure his family’s future. The little task of finding a certain person on the train turns deadly as he uncovers a plot to silence a witness. With his family’s life now in danger, people watching his every move and the safety of the passengers in jeopardy, Michael must act quickly and intelligently to survive the ride home.
Fixing the one major issue I mentioned above would not turn The Commuter from a bad movie into a good one. There are so many lazy and uninteresting elements to this story, it’s nearly unsalvageable. Neeson no more feels like the every-man than Trump does in this scenario. As a viewer familiar with Neeson’s previous roles, the suspense is negated by the fact we already know from films like “Taken” and “Unknown” that everything will turn out fine in the end. The family is hardly even shown on-screen, so why should the audience care about people we don’t even know? There are so many holes in the plot and narrative structure that its impossible to care about the events happening on screen.
In this script the unseen bad guys can kill a stranger in complete daylight without getting caught, they can hijack public transportation, cellphones, not to mention have eyes everywhere and dispose of bodies in plain sight with precision. That begs the question, why do they need to involve an ex-cop who is just another person to worry about, to handle something they clearly have the ability to take care of on their own. The musical score is so laughable the way it screams to the audience “this is action movie music.” The unrealistic fight scenes on public transportation, train cars sliding down the track sideways for what appears like miles is absurd (physics people). “The Commuter” might as well have been set in space for all the sense it makes.
Final thought — Neeson’s career is much like a commuter train who just hits the same spots without change.