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The Commuter (Liam Neeson) - Review

The Commuter

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

LIAM Neeson’s fourth outing with writer-director Jaume Collet-Serra is a trashy, enjoyable B-movie that succeeds in spite of its own absurdity.

Part Hitchcock thriller, part Die Hard/Under Siege actioner and part Collet-Sera’s own Non-Stop, The Commuter is the type of fast-moving thrill-ride that Hollywood doesn’t really make anymore – which only adds to its appeal.

Neeson plays insurance salesman Michael, a former cop (aka a person with a special set of skills), whose bad day becomes infinitely worse while, during his evening commute home, he is approached by a mysterious stranger (played by Vera Farmiga) on the train and given an interesting proposition.

If he can uncover the identity of a hidden passenger before the last stop, he will be in line to receive a hefty reward. But as he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, he realises he is a pawn in a wider conspiracy that has put the lives of the hidden passenger and his own family in peril… not to mention the remaining passengers on the train.

Interesting Hitchcock-inspired set-up aside, The Commuter works best if you’re willing to just go with it. If not, then you’ll quickly realise how little sense it makes.

The various elements of the conspiracy and how they come together seldom add up, while Neeson’s own death-defying exploits (at his character’s age of 60, no less) increasingly strain credibility.

Yet in spite of its obvious failings, The Commuter rattles along in such a ridiculously enjoyable manner that you may well be having too much fun to notice. What’s more, it boasts a top-drawer ensemble cast, who work overtime to cover up those plot-holes.

Neeson is as reliable as ever, looking buff, yet imbuing his character with an everyman likeability that serves him well during his more OTT moments. Farmiga is suitably enticing and mysterious, while the likes of Patrick Wilson (as an ex-partner) and Jonathan Banks, Roland Moller, Colin McFarlane and Clara Lago all make intriguing – if under-developed – fellow passengers and/or train crew.

Collet-Sera keeps the identity of the secret passenger well concealed and has fun placing Neeson’s character in do-or-die situations from which there seems little chance of scape, thereby ramping up the tension. While his keen eye for a set-piece ensures that there is some suitably big-screen carnage that carries a very real wow factor, not to mention several bruising fights between Neeson and various foes.

If The Commuter does, ultimately, derail itself, it’s in that wafer-thin character-building of its peripheral characters, some of its more wayward plotting and an ending that feels way too contrived. It could really have been elevated by a Hitchcock-style twist of its own.

But as an alternative to the more weighty films doing the rounds in search of awards recognition this time of year, The Commuter is an absurdly enjoyable popcorn romp that engages for anyone willing to keep their brain in neutral.

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 1hr 45mins
UK Release Date: January 19, 2018