The Commuter (5 out of 10)
“What kind of person are you?”
I honestly didn’t even want to write a review for this film. It’s not because it is awful, because it really isn’t. Actually, it was mildly entertaining and had some decent action sequences. No, the reason I didn’t want to write a review for this film is because it’s really just another Liam Neeson action film. Ever since Neeson’s career was reinvigorated with the smash success of 2008’s “Taken,” he’s had no problem being typecast in a bunch of wannabe, Taken-like films. I guess it pays the bills, but it also has heavily diluted his brand and drained every last ounce of creativity from the scripts he receives, and that trend continues with “The Commuter,” Neeson’s fourth outing with director Jaume Collet-Serra, previously working with him on 2011’s “Unknown,” 2014’s “Non-Stop,” and 2015’s “Run All Night.” Of those films, The Commuter is most like Non-Stop. In that film, Neeson played an air-marshal trying to solve a mystery/conspiracy while on an airplane, with plenty of fighting and action sequences along the way. In the commuter, Neeson plays a former NYPD officer turned life insurance salesman who is suddenly fired, and on the train home, he is thrust into figuring out a mystery/conspiracy while on a train with, you guessed it, plenty of fighting and action sequences along the way.
The only semi-creative twist I can think of for this film is that Neeson isn’t nearly as good of a fighter as he is in his other action films. Unlike his Brian Mills character in Taken, Neeson gets battered, bruised, and beaten to a pulp by multiple people while he tries to defend himself, often unsuccessfully (but of course he just kept chugging along). Were there any other interesting parts to the film? Sure, Vera Farmiga (seen only briefly but heard throughout the film) is very interesting as the mysterious woman who offers Neeson’s character a nice sum of money if he can find the passenger on the train who “doesn’t belong.” Also, some of the other supporting characters do a decent job of bringing some tension to scenes, even if most of them are nothing but red herrings. But none of those things, plus the fighting and action sequences, do much to alleviate the boredom and the “been there, seen that” feel I got throughout the film. The fight scenes are fairly brief and rather banal, and the action pieces, specifically the climactic train derailment, are so over-the-top and poorly rendered that they became laughable. Also, Collet-Serra tried to be creative with some of his camera work, but those moments came across as forced and rather unnecessary directorial flourishes that didn’t do his film any favors.
I wish I could say that this film brought something new to the table, or even just made old material feel fresh and exciting, the way I felt when I watched Taken, but alas, it does not. While it certainly had some potential, and Vera Farmiga could’ve been a very interesting villain if given more time to develop, the film is, ultimately, just another mediocre Liam Neeson action movie. I give The Commuter a 5 out of 10.
- Ryan Zeid