“The Commuter” is not a good film. You know that I’m not a prude about action films: “Die Hard” is one of my all time favourites and I even gave this actor/director combo’s previous outing – “Non-Stop” – a rather generous three Fads. But like many of my commutes, this is a hundred minutes of life that I won’t get back again.
Liam Neeson (“A Monster Calls”, “Taken 3”) plays Michael MacCauley an insurance salesman (no, I’m not making it up) who of course used to be a police officer with a certain set of skills. With advancing years, a couple of mortgages to keep up and a son about to go to college, he is financially rather exposed.
When a bad day turns worse, the commuting MacCauley is approached by a mysterious woman (Vera Farmiga, “The Judge”, “Up In The Air”) who offers him a financial bail-out for doing “just one small thing”. No, it’s not for sex in the toilet… it’s to use his familiarity with the train and its normal passengers to find the person that ‘doesn’t fit there’. For there is a lot at stake and MacCauley is drawn into a perilous game where his own life and the lives of his son and wife Karen (Elizabeth McGovern, “Downton Abbey”) are put at risk.
What the inexperienced writers (Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle (“Non-stop”)) were clearly shooting for was a Hitchcockian “ordinary man in deep-water” style flick of the James Stewart “North by Northwest” variety…. but they really miss this by a mile. With the 65 year old Liam Neeson – here playing 60 – performing acrobatics on, under and across an express train, belief is not just suspended – it is hung drawn and quartered! The action is just ludicrously unrealistic.
The plot also has more holes than a moth-eaten jumper. Omnipotence of the villains is evident, but never explained, and while they are fiendishly clever in some aspects they are face-palmingly stupid about others. (No spoilers, but the threat to MacCauley’s family is mind-numbingly foilable).
A ‘major event’ at the end of reel two (if you’ve seen the spoilerish trailer you’ll know what this is) leads – notably without any ‘consequence’ – into a completely ridiculous final reel that beggars belief. It also includes a “twist” so obvious that the writers must have assumed an IQ of sub-50.
This is a film that melds “Taken”, “Non-stop”, “Unstoppable”, “Strangers on a Train” and – most bizarrely and cringe-worthily – “Spartacus” to create a cinematic mess of supreme proportions. I put director Jaume Collet-Serra’s last film – “The Shallows” – into my Top 10 films of 2016. He’ll be lucky if this one doesn’t make my “Turkeys of the Year” list for 2018.