Liam Neeson Adds Waze Voice Navigation to Very Particular Set of Skills

The Commuter review

The template actually kind of worked on Unknown and Non-Stop, capitalizing on Neeson's post-Taken reboot as a somewhat inexplicable action hero and providing harmless B-movie entertainment in the early winter months of their given years, when quality films can be few and far between (interestingly, the more character-driven and cerebral of the three, Run All Night, was the least successful at the box office).

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 script has the potential to be so much more, such as a Hitchcockian thriller on the train, but it only turns into a missed opportunity. No notice, no pay-off, and with a son about to go to college, no idea what to do next. At the age of 60, on a day that begins like any other - a 6 a.m. alarm; a shave; a vehicle ride to the Tarrytown train station on the Metro-North Hudson Valley Line - Michael gets canned ("a good soldier", his boss terms him).

On the day he's laid off from his job, he's approached by a stranger (Vera Farmiga) who makes him a mysterious offer: identify the rider on the train named "Prynne" and slip a Global Positioning System on their person, and collect $100,000 for his efforts. Telling him that she studies human behavior, she wants to know what he would do if someone offered him a very high financial reward for finding someone on the train with a bag that contains stolen property.

Joanna exits the train early on, but she seems to have eyes and ears everywhere, and she's constantly in touch with Michael, reminding him of the grave consequences he'll be facing if he doesn't follow the plan all the way through. As luck would have it, like riding a bicycle, those skills - while not quite as special as the ones to which "Taken" fans became accustomed - are quickly put to use as he schleps between cars, simultaneously trying to find the mystery passenger and discover a way out of his predicament.

There's nothing special about Michael. There's no reason on earth for someone to blackmail him so there's got to be a situation playing out behind the scenes. They were partners on the force and Murphy's always had his back and it's Murphy who tells Michael to inform his wife that he lost his job. No matter how hard he whips the camera around each train compartment, no matter how he swoops over benches and around passengers' heads, Collet-Serra is still working with unnecessarily convoluted airport-novel material. While the roles may be smaller, everyone is a possible suspect. The Commuter is above all else the Liam Neeson show, and it wisely never loses sight of that throughout its runtime. Michael gets involved in fights and shootouts, and on occasion finds himself underneath the train or running alongside the train or pushing someone off the train.

It's not the worst way to waste a couple of hours on a chilly January afternoon, but The Commuter is easily the least of Neeson and Collet-Serra's quartet of potboilers.

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