If you’re looking for a decent but hardly spectacular action-thriller, “The Commuter” offers a comfortable, familiar ride.
Liam Neeson stars as Michael McCauley, a former cop who has spent the last 10 years selling insurance. One day he hops onto the train for the long commute into the city only to learn that he’s been laid off. McCauley is 60, has no job prospects, and hasn’t managed to save a dime. Oh, and his son will be starting college soon.
After commiserating with former partner Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson) at a bar, McCauley boards the train for home. He’s seated across from a mysterious woman named Joanna (Vera Farmiga), who begins tossing odd hypotheticals at him: Would he be willing to locate a passenger on the train and point that person out for a large sum of money? No questions asked.
When the hypothetical becomes all too real, McCauley rejects the offer. At which point Joanna threatens harm to his wife and son if he doesn’t cooperate. McCauley has until the train reaches the end of the line to find the person of interest and decide what to do about it.
“The Commuter” is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who gave us other Liam Neeson action-thrillers like “Non Stop” and “Run All Night.” The pair know how to tell a tense and gripping story, even if it is a pretty stupid one.
Neeson continues to be a magnetic, if unlikely, action hero. He’s the centerpiece of the film, so it’s a good thing he’s up to the task. The rest of the cast is fine but they’re not really given much of anything interesting to do.
Like all films of this sort there are twists and turns and friends who may be enemies and enemies who may be friends. It all goes off the rails (literally) by the end when the good guys and bad guys have to be sorted out amid much chaos.
The central problem I have with the film is the central idea behind the film. The bad guys pulling the strings have eyes everywhere, ears everywhere, and can do pretty much anything. So why resort to bribery and threats to get a retired cop (who probably isn’t going to go along with your plan) to find your mystery person? Why not just hire a professional investigator?
It wouldn’t be as thrilling, but at least it would make sense.