"The Commuter" review by Kenneth Turan


I have to let you in on a little secret: if I'm home alone, have no work hanging over my head, all the shows I'm now watching are caught up, there's nothing I have to watch for work and no Okjas or other zeitgeist-y things I feel I have to watch, I'm gonna turn towards Liam Neeson... or Nicolas Cage.

Now we only have one question left for you, Liam ... That could happen. It's supposed to be a diverting, B-movie, grab-the-popcorn and forget-the-post-holiday-blues slice of entertainment.

Long before the train at the center of "The Commuter" physically derails, its storyline and plausibility sputter out of control.

How bad is this thing? And rarely has breakaway glass been so obviously ... well, breakaway glass.

Michael McCauley (Neeson) is a sixty year old insurance salesman as well as an ex-cop, who has spent the last ten years commuting to work by train.

What's most tiresome about The Commuter isn't actually how derivative and familiar it is. The pace is such that you might not take much notice of this as the movie barrels toward its climax, and Neeson's presence is so commanding that he nearly single-handedly makes up for all the shortcomings. His latest foray into the cold is "The Commuter", his fourth feature for director Jaume Collet-Serra, following "Unknown" (2011), "Non-Stop" (2014) and "Run All Night" (2015).

And then one evening, it all unravels.

By the time he regrets accepting the assignment, Michael's suburban family is being threatened by thugs, and he's forced to rely on his own resourcefulness to spare his own life and those of his fellow passengers.

Let's just say Michael is given the opportunity to make a quick score when he needs cash more than he's ever needed it in his life, and all he has to do is one little thing - but that one little thing sets off a chain reaction resulting in bloodshed and conspiracy theories and madness on that train, with maybe a dozen passengers possibly involved in the deadly, high-stakes game. As the story gets more embroiled, it becomes less coherent and amusing, climaxing as it does with a massive train derailment, a hostage situation, and a final bit of flimflammery that's truly just nonsensical. And he manages to get in several knock-down, drag-out fights with others, which barely give anyone else on the train pause.

The train is filled with stereotypes and caricatures, from the wisecracking, would-be womanizer of a young conductor to the nervous nurse to the jerky Wall Street guy to the student with a nose ring and pink hair to the old-timer named Walt contemplating retirement to the suspicious-looking meathead Michael has never seen on the train before. At the age of 60, on a day that begins like any other - a 6 a.m. alarm; a shave; a auto ride to the Tarrytown train station on the Metro-North Hudson Valley Line - Michael gets canned ("a good soldier", his boss terms him).