Liam Neeson proves age is just a number


Liam Neeson stars alongside Vera Farmiga in this action-packed mystery thriller set on a commuter train. Photo courtesy of IMDB

Liam Neeson continues his originally surprising, but now well-worn, run as an aging action star in “The Commuter.”  Neeson takes the role of Michael MacCauley (who is but a modest 60 years of age, compared to Neeson’s age of 65), an insurance salesman who quit his job as a police officer 10 years ago to stay with his family.  At least, I think that’s how the movie briefly explained it.  Regardless, MacCauley is suddenly fired from his job and is left wondering how he will make ends meet for his family, especially with his son going off to college.  Fortunately, a random person on his train ride home offers him $100,000 to find someone on the train or else his family dies.  And so the mystery ensues.

With Neeson and action film vet Jaume Collet-Serra at the helm, the film follows similar beats to another of their team ups, Non-Stop.  With a group of people stuck in a confined space and Neeson trying to prevent his family from getting the ax by finding the mystery person, it was hard not to feel like I’d seen the same film before, only this time it was on a train, not a plane.  Fortunately, Serra uses his experienced hand to bring to light the new mystery in an interesting way.

In the enclosed space of the train car, there is plenty of time to get to know important players, all of whom were at least moderately interesting.  Serra nicely distracts the focus from what ends up allowing MacCauley to solve the mystery, but the answers are there for the audience to see, should they remember them.  Like Non-Stop though, so much of the tension of the film is built up in trying to frantically find who MacCauley is looking for, that the film holds little rewatchability.

As far as the action part of this action/mystery film goes, there is not too much.  This is not “Taken,” where Neeson will hop on a yacht in the end and rack up a double-digit body count with the subtlety of a Michael Bay action star.  There are only four or five action moments in the whole film and in each one Serra does his best to make a fight with a 60-year-old protagonist be both interesting and somewhat believable.  The editing does get hectic at times and it can be near impossible to tell who’s hitting what at times. When Neeson’s face smashed through the window for the fourth time in a fight, it was a bit head scratching how he was totally ok. Granted, when the main character is 60, realism is probably not the most crucial factor.

After the initial mystery is solved, the film drags on for about 20 more minutes as an additional question must be answered, though this one is far less interesting because it is brought up so late.  The result is what feels like a rushed ending, with a ridiculous “Spartacus” moment that was probably the funniest part of the film. Immediately after that, suddenly everything else wraps up into a neat bow in the final five minutes of the movie.

This film breaks almost no new ground and if you have seen some of the other Serra directed films, then you will know what you are going to get.  It does about an average job accomplishing its rerun task, adding a rushed ending that probably was the result of the film trying to jam some extra tension into the final minutes.  January is never a good time for films and if you want to satisfy your action kick, this should do a satisfactory job considering what’s out right now.  But if you want something with some depth, try catching up on some of the Oscar films that have gotten recent expansions.