The Commuter – movie review

by Russell Baillie / 03 February, 2018

A desperate salesman takes on a mysterious commuter’s challenge.

As the title suggests, the journey in the latest Liam Neeson movie isn’t a long one. He’s not flitting about Europe as he did in his Taken trilogy. He’s not flying across the Atlantic as he did in Non-Stop, his previous public-transport excursion with thriller whiz Jaume Collet-Serra and a movie that The Commuter frequently resembles.

No, he’s on the rush-hour train from Manhattan’s Grand Central Station to his home half an hour up the Hudson River. No, his character, Michael McCauley, isn’t that different to his previous action blokes, but at least he’s got a smaller carbon footprint.

He’s also man with a particular set of bills. McCauley has been selling insurance since leaving the NYPD and taking a financial beating in 2008. He’s five years from retirement, but he and his wife remain heavily mortgaged and are struggling to pay for their son’s impending college fees.

One day, he’s suddenly laid off. So when a stranger (Vera Farmiga) on his train home offers him $100,000 to put a tracking device on a mystery passenger, he’s easily tempted. But his momentary lapse leads to murder, threats against his family and petty theft – the film nicks bits of other movies ranging from Strangers on a Train to Spartacus.

It starts off well, with a suspenseful first hour that has good fun with Neeson, in his usual grizzled form, making convincing work of the seemingly preposterous set-up.

But at some point, the mystery runs out of puff, the generic action takes over and it’s full steam ahead to a spectacularly stupid ending.

It’s not without visual flair, with Collet-Serra making the commuter experience feel authentic and claustrophobic. But his greatest bit of movie trickery is possibly unintended – turning so many passenger carriages into a lumbering freight train of red herrings.

Video: STUDIOCANAL New Zealand

IN CINEMAS NOW

★★1/2

This article was first published in the February 3, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

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