Rob Reviews "The Commuter"
Recently on our show, we discussed how the concept of the first quarter of the year is becoming less and less of a “dumping ground” for the studios after the flooding of the market for awards season. With technology where it is, it almost doesn’t matter when a film is released because it is easy to do a re-release in order to keep a production fresh in the minds of those who vote on such things. In director Jaume Collet-Serra’s fourth film with Liam Neeson, “The Commuter,” this concept has been launched a country mile backwards.
Neeson plays Michael MacCauley, a retired New York City cop who has spent the last ten years selling life insurance. After he gets laid off, he spends some time commiserating with his ex-partner, Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson), before heading home on his normal commuter train. As the trip home commences, he is approached by a mysterious woman named Joanna (Vera Farmiga), who asks him to do her a favor by finding someone on his train that he normally doesn’t see and tag a bag they are carrying containing something that was stolen from her and her associates. The offer of $100,000 convinces him to at least consider it, and then something that is supposed to resemble all hell breaks loose.
This film could easily have been multiple films and perhaps been a bit more enjoyable. With a paper-thin premise that has the depth of a kiddie pool after a week of evaporation, “The Commuter” just simply goes nowhere (pun not intended, but I will take credit on that one). Neeson comes nowhere near the intensity he has shown in films like “Taken,” and perhaps this was just some sort of taking the work that is in front of you that many actors do between passion projects. Farmiga just seems awkward that doesn’t ever lock down her correct emotional motivation to give her character anything beyond two dimensions, and Wilson almost seems wasted. There is even a cinematic device used during the climax of the film that I was begging not to happen, and when it did I just gave an exhausted sigh. The pacing is slow to the point of painful with an opening sequence that seemed like the post-production crew got a new toy they wanted to play with and put it in the film, leading to me having a headache. Perhaps I should have known that this was forewarning of the turtle-on-an-oil-slick hour and forty-five minutes that were ahead of me.
Maybe I am getting more cynical as I get older because there were some interesting reactions in certain points from the crowd at the screening that I attended, but I totally could not share the sentiments of shock and breath-catching that were going on around me. There is simply no way that I can defend anything in any way, shape, or form when it comes to “The Commuter”. This is a film that will make some good money in its opening weekend but once the word gets out, the drop off will be nothing short of epic. If this was one of those instances where I could tell you to leave your brain at the door and watch Liam Neeson beat the crap out of other dudes for a couple of hours, that would be one thing. Unfortunately, there isn’t even enough fight scenes to carry that fact, and the ones that are have some of the worst fight choreography I have seen this side of anything The Asylum has produced. Avoid “The Commuter” with everything in your being. Seriously.