The Commuter

 

            Yes, of course, Liam Neeson is getting a bit long in the tooth to be an action hero.  But they even use his age in the plot.

            He plays Michael MacCauley, an ex-cop who left police work at age 50, and whoís been selling insurance for the last ten years.  He takes the train into the City every day.  Heís got two teenage sons about to go to college, and a wife whoís a real estate agent, and they show his morning routine as being pretty much the same every day.  Until the time when an attractive woman heís never seen before (Vera Farmiga) sits across from him and gives him a challenge.

            Just do this one little thing.  And if he does, he stands to make a lot of money.  This is music to his ears, because heís just been laid off, and hasnít yet told his wife.  All heís done so far is go to the neighborhood cop bar and have a couple of cold ones with his old buddy Alex (Patrick Wilson). 

            Of course doing the ďone little thingĒ turns out to be enormously complicated.  It seems thereís this witness on the train, one who saw a crime committed, and there are plenty of powerful people who would like for this person not to testify.  But first Liam has to find out who the witness is.  And not tell anybody else what heís up to.  And somehow plant a GPS device without that person realizing it.  Oh, and it could be anybody on that train, male or female.

            So now we alternate games.  Thereís hide and seek.  Then guess my name.  Then see who can punch the hardest (there are a lot of close-in fight scenes, and more blows landed than anybody could reasonably withstand).  Then we play phone tag, where Liamís mysterious contact calls him to cajole him for either not listening or not cooperating.  Then itís mystery theater, where we try to find out who the bad guy is before more people get hurt.

            Itís a fun January movie because it makes no pretentions about possible Oscar worthiness.  We all know the ending before we start.  But what we enjoy are the theatrics in getting there, including both literal and figurative train wrecks.  It doesnít break any cinematic ground, and it wonít win any awards.  But itís a fast-paced action movie thatís just fun for the viewer to try to figure out before the main character does.  Is Liam Neeson getting too old for this?  Sure.  But thatís part of the fun, too.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association