This is basically just Liam Neeson telling you to turn right, turn left, or make a U-turn.
What's most tiresome about The Commuter isn't actually how derivative and familiar it is.
On the day he's laid off from his job, he's approached by a stranger (Vera Farmiga) who makes him a mysterious offer: identify the rider on the train named "Prynne" and slip a Global Positioning System on their person, and collect $100,000 for his efforts. Intelligent, tantalising layers that will have you asking, "What would I do in Neeson's situation, assuming I was as kick-ass as him?" Flung jobless into the mad swirl of midday Manhattan, with a spouse on the line inquiring about their kid's college-tuition payments, Michael is shell-shocked - an existential state well-suited to the handsomely aged Neeson's gaunt, somewhat gangly aspect. From there, however, screenwriters Byron Willinger, Philip de Blasi and Ryan Engle pull one movie-cliche punch after another. The movie also incorporates some stylistic flourishes (sped up motion, sequence shots seemingly created in post-production) in these scenes, to further spice things up.
It's not the worst way to waste a couple of hours on a chilly January afternoon, but The Commuter is easily the least of Neeson and Collet-Serra's quartet of potboilers. While I don't necessarily think that Farmiga and Neeson duking it out with chains on top of the train Emperor of the North-style is necessarily what this movie needs, Farmiga is certainly the calibre of villain the movie needs but keeps at bay for 90 per cent of the film's running time. Most of the film's characters - especially the train passengers played by lesser known actors - are the sort of two-dimensional stock types that one expects to find in this sort of pulpy fare. Collet-Serra is able to get the most out of Michael moving between train compartments just as he was able to get surprisingly mileage out of Liam-Neeson-Stuck-on-a-Plane in Non-Stop. "Unknown" and "Non-Stop" are better efforts, but he also was working from better scripts.
Every morning at 6, Michael awakes in his home in Tarrytown, N.Y., to the sounds of all-news NY radio station 1010 Wins, checks to make sure his high school senior son (Dean-Charles Chapman) is up and at 'em, and gets a ride to the train station from his loving wife (Elizabeth McGovern).
If you have a MoviePass and you've already used it to catch up on awards season favorites like Lady Bird; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; and The Shape of Water, or if you've already seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi six times and don't feel like you could possibly wring another detail from a seventh viewing, you might want to get out this weekend to see Liam Neeson's latest action flick, The Commuter. Then immediately after saying that, the interviewer asks if Neeson would be willing to take a pay cut in order to even things out.
The Commuter begins playing in US theaters nationwide tonight.
Well, it's not a game and next thing you know he's dragging his lanky frame up and down the train cars trying to find a mysterious person with a mysterious bag before his family is nabbed or someone else gets killed.