|Starring||Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Sam Neill, Jonathan Banks, Andy Nyman|
|Release||12 JAN (US) 19 JAN (UK) Certificate 15|
The set-up is slick and the train's geography is well-established thanks to some fancy tracking shots that show us the full layout of the train and its passengers. Collet-Serra wastes no time getting Neeson into trouble, via a wonderfully smarmy turn by Vera Farmiga, and the plotting is tight, uncomplicated and instantly exciting. Unfortunately, what starts off Hitchcock soon devolves into plain old cock in the last act, when the train - and the plot - completely derails. Much like a real commute, what appear to be an innocuous bunch of characters - including Brits Andy Nyman and Shazad Latif aka Clem Fandango - all turn out to be quite irritating company over the course of an hour and a half. Needless to say, a UK version of The Commuter would feature a lot more characters wearing earbuds and 1000% more judgemental tutting.
No one is under any grand illusion that high art is the benchmark here; in fact, unusually for this calibre of thriller, everyone seems to be in on the joke. There's a Spartacus riff that plays completely ridiculously, not to mention a number of moments that bend, if not break, the fourth wall, including a train conductor who absolutely isn't tolerating any action movie heroism shit on his shift. But, for every moment that The Commuter displays an iota of self-awareness, there's another scene where cliché is clung to like driftwood. Cheesy one-liners, convenient plot holes, logic farts, red herrings, hugely irrational decisions that no human being would ever make - you know the Liam Neeson thriller drill by now.
The biggest laugh of the movie comes at the very end, where an exhausted, near-dead Neeson, having just survived an ordeal that would give mere mortals a lifetime of PTSD, is reunited with his kidnapped wife and child... who greet him with the kind of excitement usually reserved for a family member who has recently returned from the corner shop with milk. I can't remember a scene where the tone of the script was so radically misread. What's a commuter got to do to get some respect around here?
Let’s be honest, this kind of film really doesn’t have much of a future on the big screen: there's precious little of The Commuter that's cinematic and contains nothing that'd look out of place on Netflix. At 65, Liam Neeson has maybe five action movies left in him, and only has about three methods of public transportation he's yet to try, so my advice to you is to set your expectations low and be thankful that you still have the choice between, say, challenging awards season fare about freedom of the press, and a movie where Liam Neeson beats a man to death with a guitar. Allow yourself to be Taken 4: A Ride.