If all you’re searching for is a little escapism with Liam Neeson kicking butt and taking names, you’ll probably be entertained by “The Commuter.” This mystery on a train isn’t exactly action-packed, but it’s not as awful as your typical January release. It’s also not memorable in the least.
Neeson is Michael, an ex-cop turned insurance salesman who endures a daily rail commute from his ordinary suburban home into New York City. Heading back to his family on his typical train one evening, he’s approached by a mysterious stranger (Vera Farmiga) who propositions him with a sack full of cash if he’ll sniff out “the passenger who doesn’t belong.” Financially strapped, Michael takes the money and finds himself trapped in an elaborate (and deadly) blackmail game of cat and mouse as he races against the clock to identify the person before the end of the line.
Hang on for what follows, a so/so action thriller filled with cliché twists and some laughably lousy special effects. The plot has more holes than a bargain basement Swiss cheese, a story comprised of ridiculous and illogical scenarios. Even the whodunit doesn’t make a lick of sense, from the motivations to the eventual unveiling of the baddie. It’s a textbook script that’s wholly predictable, right down to the eventual solving of the conspiracy puzzle.
Early on, the film touches on some compelling moral gray areas (it turns out as soon as Michael fingers the outsider, something awful will happen) that are all too quickly abandoned. There could’ve been something different and special here that’s tossed away in favor of a by-the-book, easy to follow story for the average cineplex audience.
Hardcore Neeson fans will probably find more to like about this film than I did, but I give him major props for playing this with full sincerity.