Thursday, January 18, 2018     Volume: 18, Issue: 46
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Santa Maria Sun / Film

This weeks review
12 STRONG
HEARST CASTLE: BUILDING THE DREAM
INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY
JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE
PADDINGTON 2
THE COMMUTER

THE COMMUTER

PHOTO BY LIONSGATE

THE COMMUTER


Where is it playing?: Parks Plaza, Movies Lompoc, Hi-Way Drive-In

What's it rated?: PG-13

What's it worth?: $ Rental

User Rating: 0.00 (0 Votes)

It seems like director Jaume Collet-Serra and actor Liam Neeson have a thing going on. First there was Unknown (2011) about a guy whose identity is stolen and he has to thwart an assassination, then there was Non-Stop (2014) about an air marshal thwarting an in-flight extortion scheme, then there was Run All Night (2015) about a mob guy who has to thwart his boss’s attempt to murder his son, and now there’s The Commuter about a supposedly mild-mannered insurance salesman who has to thwart the assassination of a witness on a train.

Yes, Michael MacCauley (Neeson) has a very particular set of skills, but one of them isn’t making The Commuter as good as Taken (2008), which Collet-Serra and Neeson seem to be chasing over and over without success.

Sure, The Commuter is a serviceable action thriller, but it never quite reaches Neeson’s best action efforts like Taken or The Grey. It begins by establishing MacCauley as a committed family man who dutifully takes the commuter train in to New York every day to sell insurance out of his office in a big high-rise. He’s unexpectedly fired and meets an old friend, Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson), for a drink before heading home to face his wife and son. We learn MacCauley and Murphy were police partners. We also meet Capt. Hawthorne (San Neill), who’s set up as a barely tolerable ballbuster and potential villain.

Safely on the train back to the ’burbs, MacCauley meets Joanna (Vera Farmiga), who tells him he can make $100,000 if he can locate a train passenger “who doesn’t belong,” carrying a bag she wants him to mark with a GPS device. Incredulous, MacCauley finds—as directed—a $25,000 down payment in the restroom and begins to work his powers of detection, but things turn sinister quickly as Joanna threatens MacCauley’s family if he doesn’t succeed.

Hey, the film isn’t going to win any awards or even stick in your head long after viewing, but if you like action thrillers, it’s passable, largely because Neeson delivers a dependable performance. MacCauley’s a decent man in a hard spot, and when he discovers the person he’s supposed to find is marked for death, he’s torn between his family’s safety and the safety of the witness to a crime. Can he thread the needle and maintain his honor while saving both his family and the witness?

The train offers an element of claustrophobia, the hand-to-hand combat scenes are well choreographed, and there’s an emotional element that raises the film beyond mindless action, but the film requires some serious suspension of disbelief to keep your eyes from rolling in your head. It’s pretty ridiculous, but considering the straight-to-video dreck out there, The Commuter isn’t terrible, but neither is it inspired. (105 min.)

—Glen Starkey




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