The Commuter strikes this unmistakeable tone of familiarity. We have our resident everyman played of course by Liam Neeson who just happens to be an ex-cop who finds himself wrapped up with some dangerous individuals (sound familiar?). He meets up with a mysterious woman played by Vera Farmiga who offers him one hundred thousand dollars to locate a passenger who we find out is the FBI’s witness to a pretty gruesome act (gee … where have I heard this before). Of course, when he refuses to go along with the act, his family is threatened (wait .. they took his family .. shocking). The only question that I have after sitting through this ridiculousness is why would anyone ever want to travel with Liam Neeson? Furthermore, why would anyone consider sitting through the same movie you’ve probably seen Neeson in already?
Bryon Willinger, Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle attempt to strike a different tone in this release but end falling into the same tropes found in his previous work. Neeson is Michael McCauley, a struggling insurance salesman who is trying to find a way to pay his mortgage and help his son go to college. McCauley is so close to retirement but is blindsided by his boss when he’s laid off. He heads back to get on the train home and just as he’s about to read a book Farmiga’s character approaches him.
The writing in the film has all the originality of a mad-libs you’d pick up at a gas station. There’s an attempt to give Neeson’s character a working man’s vibe (I mean come on… he rides a train every day and drinks coffee), but it comes across as a thin plot device intended to give McCauley some cause for considering the mysterious lady’s offer. Even the mystery which dominates most of the first and second acts is poorly conceived. His character is forced to search for a witness named Pryne, and I’ll give you all one guess what she happens to be reading when McCauley finds her (eye-roll).
Farmiga’s performance is average at best while Neeson’s appears to be going through the motions. There’s nothing eye-popping or exciting about this action star. He indeed looks his age, and no amount photography can disguise that. However, Patrick Wilson’s performance is probably the worst of the entire film. Wilson portrays McCauley’s former partner who appears to be hiding something (hmmm, Neeson’s partner may be a bad guy, sigh). Wilson is dull on screen and brought no energy to the film. Seeing this made me slightly concerned because of his role in the upcoming Aquaman. Hopefully, James Wan can get more out of him.
My one hope was that maybe the special effects would make The Commuter visually appealing, but that was a disaster as well. Can someone explain to me how Neeson suffered only minor abrasions when his head was thrown through a window? The final crash sequence had little believability and came across as hokey. If that’s what you are looking for, then look no further. However, if your family is looking for a quality film, then the last thing you should select is Neeson playing the same role once again.