Liam Neeson (Michael) is an insurance salesman who is on his daily commute home, which quickly becomes anything but routine. Jaume Collet-Serra's most recent Liam Neeson (literal) vehicle perhaps one-ups the plane in Non-Stop in its specificity, aside from the fake train logo and a few erroneous track changes for what is supposed to be an MTA North to Poughkeepsie.
Joanna, flirty at first and menacing not long after, challenges him to find an unknown passenger on the train-a stranger on the train, you might say-and slap a Global Positioning System locator on their bag before they pull into the last stop on the line.
A brand new action-packed film clip has arrived for the thriller, which finds Neeson back in action-man mode. Nevertheless, a Liam Neeson movie is a Liam Neeson movie. While on the ride home on the commuter train, he is approached by a unusual woman who proposes a hypothetical: if he could track down one person on the train who doesn't seem to belong and identify them with a Global Positioning System tracking device, would he do so with the promise of a $100,000 reward, regardless of the unknown consequences to the identified party?
But Collet-Serra, whose "Non-Stop" similarly relished the confined space of an airplane cabin, is too interested with swooping his camera through the train to care much about the blur on the outside. Naturally, Michael seems reluctant at first, but the newly unemployed, family man, desperate for the quick cash being offered, ultimately gives in.
"The Commuter" may be set on the way home after a long, hard day at the office, but this movie feels less like happy hour than work - and uncompensated overtime at that. He only pays off the reference by having Michael flip off an asshole stockbroker riding the train with him, openly disdainful of taking public transportation.
As with their previous collaborations, Collet-Serra and Neeson utilize here what works best in this type of film, namely Neeson's action prowess, his certain set of skills on full display. But in cinematic fashion, there is one day in particular that he'll never forget.
The film could have likely worked without all the punching and kicking provided, but then what would be left for The Commuter.
The answer, of course, is that the story (by Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle) does not exist to serve the needs of logic, but those of Neeson, who, as has become his habit in this sort of thing, delivers, at minimum, a modicum of guilty pleasure as the middle-aged, tender-but-tough Everyman in a tight spot. The film plays out precisely as you expect it to, and the reveals of the mystery offer very little of substance. The supporting players are also doing commendable work here, chief among them being Farmiga, who effortlessly enhances the mysterious nature of her antagonist character. If this just sounds like Non-Stop on a train, you're right. Though, amusing enough, watching Collet-Serra and Neeson lean back on what works for them works for us. The plot mechanics don't matter almost so much as the visceral feelings of strength and relevance that a film like this imbues, and sometimes it's nice just to get caught up in a stupid fantasy.