Action Crime

'The Commuter' Film Review: 'Non-Stop' director Jaume Collet-Serra and Liam Neeson return with yet another ridiculous and over-the-top action thrill ride

January 12, 2018Justin Waldman

Jaume Collet-Serra, the director of such genre efforts as Non-Stop and The Shallows, returns to the big screen for the fourth time with Liam Neeson and continues to bring both the ridiculous and the action — and the ridiculous action — to the forefront. To call the pair's latest collaboration, The Commuter, original or even surprising would be a lie, but it certainly is entertaining and endlessly joyful to watch, which is exactly what the January box office needs.

The script by Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle focuses on a former police officer named Michael MacCauley (the always-reliable Neeson), who has recently been let go from his job at an insurance company and is trying to figure out what his next step is. Before heading out on his commute home, he stops off at a bar to meet his former partner, Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson), where they run into Alex's boss — and Michael's former boss — Captain Hawthorne (Sam Neill). Then, on the train ride home, Michael is approached by a mysterious woman named Joanna (Vera Farmiga), who asks him to play a small, hypothetical game.

If Michael accepts the terms of the game, there is an instant $25,000 waiting for him in one of the train's bathrooms, and if he succeeds, he stands to gain another $75,000. All he has to do is identify the one passenger who does not belong and take their bag. Since most of the people on the train are regulars that Michael recognizes from his daily commute, the challenge should be easy. But the problem he faces throughout the film is his moral compass, and having to choose between a financial windfall that will help him support his family versus potentially jeopardizing someone's life. It's an almost impossible decision, but it's one he must make.

Suffice to say, the only performance in The Commuter that really matters is Neeson's, and thankfully, the 65-year-old plays the same badass, kill-now-and-take-names-later action hero that we have come to know and love in various movies over the past decade. Sure, Neeson himself may even have tired of the action cliché he has become, but that doesn't mean he isn't entertaining as hell and as over-the-top as ever. Farmiga, Neill and Wilson all play smaller, supporting roles, but even though they are all great too, it is Neeson and the actors who play his fellow passengers who truly make this as enjoyable a commute to the theater as it is.

Any film in the action genre will either work or fail miserably, depending on what they're aiming for, but it's the silly action movies — the ones that know they're ridiculous and whose entire purpose is to mindlessly entertain — that yield the best results. Fortunately, The Commuter is that endlessly entertaining and supremely ridiculous movie that fans of Neeson's work in everything from Taken to Unknown all hoped it would be.

The movie plays well not just because of its release date, being that it makes for a much-needed departure from all the serious-minded films vying for next year's Oscar nominations, but also because it's simply a fun piece of action moviemaking. So forget about being bogged down in the year's best dramas and just sit back, relax and check your brain at the ticket counter, because The Commuter is the only ride you'll ever need to take.

The Commuter releases January 12th, 2018 from VVS Films. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for some intense action/violence, and language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 44 min.

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