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Movie Night – ‘The Commuter’ fails to deliver

By Bradley Griffith

It’s time for Liam Neeson to stop starring in action movies. It’s not that he isn’t a good actor, he remains one of the top actors in Hollywood. The problem is that at 65 years old, Neeson can’t quite sell the fact that his character could engage in all the fighting, shooting, leaping, and running that happen in his movies. Now in theaters, “The Commuter” will hopefully be Neeson’s last action movie.

Michael MacCauley (Neeson) does the same thing virtually every day. He gets up, gets ready for work, his wife drops him off at the train station for his ride into the city, spends all day selling insurance, and gets on the train to head home so he can do it all over again the next day. The part of his day that is different from most people in this area is the train ride. Michael rides a commuter train with many of the same people every day, and it seems kind of miserable.

The only thing that can break the monotony of his life is when one day he is unceremoniously fired from his job. At his age and level of experience the company can’t justify his salary against the amount of money he brings into the business. His severance package is only extended insurance. With no money in the bank and no job he doesn’t know how he is going to afford the tuition payment for his son’s first semester at Syracuse.

On his way home on the day of his termination an unfamiliar woman (Vera Farmiga) sits across from him on the train. She has a hypothetical game for him. One person on the train doesn’t belong. This one person, could be male or female and could be any race or ethnicity, also has a bag. All Michael has to do is find this person and place a GPS tracker in the bag and Michael can have $25,000 now and $75,000 when the deed is done.

Only it’s not a hypothetical, and Michael really has no choice in the matter. Michael’s family is kidnapped and threatened with harm if he doesn’t find this person. Every time Michael reaches out for help from one of the other passengers someone dies. With no other option available to him, Michael realizes that he must find this person before the train reaches the end of the line.

I will start out by saying that “The Commuter” has an intriguing premise. A strange woman approaches you on a train with a puzzle. One person doesn’t belong. Find them and you can have $100,000. It sounds interesting, maybe even fun. Unfortunately, the story went downhill from that point. There were no more clever twists or turns and no great mystery to be solved.  The story, like the entire movie, was just okay.

The movie was reminiscent of another Liam Neeson movie, “Non-Stop.” In “Non-Stop” Neeson played an air marshal on a commercial airline flight that is being threatened by an unseen person on the airplane. It’s up to Neeson to find the bad guy and stop him. It’s eerily similar to “The Commuter.” The action takes place in a confined area with a set number of people who could be the bad guy or the next victim. If you’ve seen “Non-Stop,” you have pretty much seen “The Commuter.”

Neeson does a good job as the desperate and confused main character. He has the same drive and determination as he does in the “Taken” movies but without the same ability to get the job done. Michael MacCauley stumbles his way back and forth through that train looking like a deranged madman to everyone else. Neeson is convincing even if he is not working with the best material.

While there may be one or two surprising aspects of the movie, for the most part the movie is predictable. The identity of the ultimate villain (who I have not included here because it would have been obvious even written in a review) is so predictable it’s laughable. This type of villain has been done a thousand times before. In the end, “The Commuter” is not great, nor is it terrible.

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Grade: B-

Rated PG-13 for some intense action/violence and language.