- Movie Rating -

The Commuter (2018)

| January 11, 2018

The Commuter is a bait-and-switch action picture that’s got good bait and a very weak switch.  You’ve already seen this movie.  Trust me, dear reader.  You’ve been through the paces.  Even if you’re not accustomed to attending Liam Neeson’s endless string of identi-kit January action butt-kickers like Flight Plan, Non-Stop, Unknown, Run All Night and those insufferable Taken sequels, then chances are you’ve already seen every rendition of this film in everything from Die Hard to The Bourne movies to The Fugitive to John Wick.  Even Super 8 and Source Code can be referenced here.  That’s a nice way of saying, there’s nothing new here.  It’s the kind of weak sauce action nonsense that is made to fill sparsely attended theaters in mid-January.

Liam Neeson, for the ba-jillionth time, plays a good, but world-weary family man who gets caught up in the machinations of a group of criminals who wrap him up in a devious plan that is far more complicated than it really needs to be.  He’s Mike MacCauley a former cop-turned-insurance salesman who works in mid-town Manhattan and goes to work one day and is immediately terminated.  That’s a problem because he’s got two mortgages and a son who is about to start college.

On his way home, he takes the same Metro North commuter train that he has taken for the past ten years.  What is different about this day is that he winds up in a conversation with the woman named Joanna (Vera Farmiga) who says she’s doing a study in human behavior then lays out a scenario that sounds hypothetical: Someone on this very train, using the alias Prynne, is carrying something that doesn’t belong to them.  The upfront prize is $25,000 and another $75,000 when the object is recovered.  This sounds like a sweet deal given his sudden financial woes, but there are some issues.  He doesn’t know the identity of Prynne, only that he must locate this person and quickly attach a tracking device at which point the person will be killed, and the job must be done before the train reaches its destination.

The plot thickens.  Who is the passenger?  What have they stolen?  Why have they stolen it?  What happens if the person reaches their final destination?  All of these questions inevitably have to be answered, the problem is that as each layer of the plot is revealed, and you watch the movie come apart at the seams.  Farmiga and company put Neeson through a series of dangerous scenarios – up to and including threatening his family, of course – that work to create action set pieces but that in the larger diabolical scheme seems wildly overcomplicated.  I would defy anyone to watch this movie and then sensibly try and explain why Neeson’s character had to do all of this.

What results is a very weak, very top heavy Hitchcockean thriller that opens up an intriguing scenario that gets dumber and sillier as it goes along.  The plot is clumsily bated by the fact that apparently Farmiga has connections and attachments and an off the train who manage to magically turn up and do nasty things whenever Neeson tries to veer off the plan.  When 60 year-old Neeson is hanging from the bottom of the train like Indiana Jones, I checked out.

For what it is, The Commuter might make an interesting Friday evening at home in your Netflix queue or if it turns up on cable some time, but it’s too silly for a first run at the theater.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2018) View IMDB Filed in: Action