The Commuter

by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday January 12, 2018

Vera Farmiga and Liam Neeson star in 'The Commuter'
Vera Farmiga and Liam Neeson star in 'The Commuter'  

Audiences should know exactly what they're getting into with "The Commuter," the latest exercise in action-packed ludicrousness from Liam Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra. The actor and director have previously collaborated on the 2011 amnesia thriller "Unknown," 2014's pulpy plane actioner "Non-Stop," and 2015's mobster drama "Run All Night." "Non-Stop" remains the top Neeson/Collet-Serra partnership, but "The Commuter" is certainly a close second.

This is a ridiculous movie with a plot that becomes more implausible the more you dwell on it. Its absurdity is rivaled only by its action, which includes a scene where Liam Neeson beats an adversary within an inch of his life with an electric guitar, then throws him out a train window directly towards the path of an approaching train on the opposite track. In other words, "The Commuter" is a fucking blast.

A dumb, pulpy pleasure - this is what a January movie should be - a breath of fresh air amidst awards season that never takes itself too seriously and knows exactly what its intentions are. Consistently fun and overall satisfying, the film takes an illogical premise and goes full speed ahead with it. Taking place almost entirely aboard a commuter train, the movie follows Neeson's character on what is perhaps the worst day of his life. After being handed a severance package by his life insurance job of 10 years and escorted off the property by security, Neeson is approached by a strange woman (Vera Farmiga) who presents him with an interesting scenario: What if there was $100,000 hidden on this train that could be all yours, but taking the money requires you to impact the life of a single fellow commuter?

Tempted by the promise of financial stability, our protagonist investigates this woman's claim and indeed finds a bag of $100,000 in cash stashed away in a bathroom's air conditioning vent. By taking the money, he is immediately launched into a heavy conspiracy operation where he must locate a mysterious passenger and tag their bag with a GPS tracker. It's that simple, yet the character's inability to succeed in this task leads to the deaths of fellow passengers and imminent threats to his wife and son. Haven't people learned by now that messing with Liam Neeson's family is a bad idea?

Cue the fist/guitar fights, crafty train-based set pieces and loopy plot developments, firing on every cylinder that exists for not giving a shit. "The Commuter" keeps the momentum flowing, offering 104 minutes of wholly entertaining content that perhaps draws its guns a tad too early (especially regarding the obvious twist), but still maintains a steady aim throughout. It pays homage to Kubrick's "Spartacus" in a hilarious scene, and sticks the landing with a final moment that reminded me of the last shot of 1974's "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three."

But most of all this is Neeson's stage, and he takes full advantage of it. The man's grizzled presence and trademark voice were made for the movies, and I sincerely hope that the actor keeps making silly action pictures like "The Commuter" until he's in his 80s. This is such a stupid movie, and I had fun with every single second of it.


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