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European films

Film review: The Commuter – Liam Neeson an unconvincing tough guy in second-rate Strangers on a Train-style drama

In this below-par Hitchcock copy, a laid-off insurance salesman is offered a large sum of money to track down a fellow train passenger. There are a few decent action scenes, but the film is basically a ludicrous conspiracy theory

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 January, 2018, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 January, 2018, 11:26am

1.5/5 stars

Ten years after kidnap thriller Taken turned Liam Neeson into a geri-action star, the Irishman is still creaking, groaning and wheezing across our screens. His latest film may well be the nadir, however, a sure sign that it’s time to seek out more sedate roles.

The Commuter reunites him with Jaume Collet-Serra, the Spanish director who is just as responsible as the Taken crew for giving Neeson this run as a latter-day tough guy in low-grade B movies like Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night. All of those had a sub-Hitchcockian feel about them, and the same goes for The Commuter, which clearly thinks it’s Strangers on a Train. What a pity it’s a ludicrous conspiracy thriller that fritters Neeson’s gruff talents on a story that becomes increasingly far-fetched.

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Neeson plays Michael MacCauley, an insurance salesman who commutes by train from upstate New York into the city. But on the day he gets made redundant, he’s in for the ride of his life. On the train home, he’s approached by the mysterious femme fatale Joanna (Vera Farmiga), who offers him a financial reward if he tracks down a fellow passenger.

Desperate after his job loss, he initially accepts, despite being given few clues as to the target’s identity, which is one of the many nonsensical elements in play. But when he tries to back out, the threats – to other travellers and his own family – begin to mount, with Joanna’s influence seemingly far-reaching.

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There are a couple of decent action sequences, one with Neeson hanging on the underside of the train, and Collet-Serra evidently knows that the faster he primes this cinematic locomotive, the less likely audiences are to question the fuzzy narrative logic.

There are some fine actors aboard The Commuter, from Sam Neill and Patrick Wilson (as grizzled policemen) to Elizabeth McGovern (as MacCauley’s wife), but they’re obliterated amid the carriage carnage and cheap lines. This film is expensive-looking trash.

The Commuter opens on January 11

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