Liam Neeson makes valiant effort to keep 'The Commuter' on the rails

Liam Neeson and Vera Farmiga in “The Commuter.”

Liam Neeson and Vera Farmiga in “The Commuter.”

If there's a gripe worth holding against the film it's that Collet-Serra is already repeating his greatest hits with Neeson, lifting Non-Stop's "search for the culprit" structure, the only difference being that in The Commuter the culprit isn't actually guilty of a crime. Read our "The Commuter" review for more on the new film.

Neeson is really what keeps "The Commuter" from flying off the rails. Neeson's battle scarred, badass Taken tendencies clashes with the mild-mannered 60-year-old businessman he's attempting to play in this film, leading to an overall clunky film.

My advice for anybody planning to travel on mass transit - if you see Liam Neeson, change your travel plans. Instead, Collet-Serra focuses on going over the top, affixing increasingly loopy twists and turns to what could have been a straightforwardly shameless riff on one of Hitchcock's most streamlined masterpieces. It's a thriller that lets you check out for awhile and see Neeson use that particular set of skills that comes so naturally to him.

Before we get to the nefarious acts of the film's evildoers, however, "The Commuter" takes its time setting up its protagonist, showing us how and why Neeson's Michael MacCauley became desperate enough to set the plot's central conceit into motion.

Liam Neeson plays an insurance salesman, Michael, on his daily commute home, which quickly becomes anything but routine.

On his way home to break the news to his wife, Karen (Elizabeth McGovern), Michael is approached by a mysterious woman named Joanna (Vera Farmiga) who poses a hypothetical situation: locate a fellow passenger who is transporting a stolen item on the train, and collect $100,000. He's an ex-cop. Of course!

"The Commuter" sounds more tastefully sedate by comparison, but don't be fooled.

Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra directs an action thriller movie with Liam Neeson. caught up with Collet-Serra on the red carpet at The Commuter NYC premiere, and he explained what the first film lent to The Commuter.

What more can I say other than the fact that "The Commuter" is a Liam Neeson action/thriller. We wanted to kind of repeat the experience [of working together] and give the same experience to the audience. So, he goes through the train, trying to figure out who he is supposed to be targeting. That's what it is, it's a movie that's a spiritual sequel. In Non-Stop, because Neeson's character is an air marshall, he knows numerous airplane crew, which helps him narrow down who can be trusted. There you have it! "The Commuter" might provide a couple of warm, Neeson-filled hours away from the January cold, but like your favorite go-to fast food, you know it's a temporary fix at best. He took the gig in the wake of the 2008 recession, sometime after walking away from his job with the NYPD, where he worked with his partner Murphy (Patrick Wilson) and Hawthorne (Sam Neill), who just made captain. In The Commuter, Neeson's character is chosen by Joanna to be set-up to look like the real culprit if anything goes against her plan.

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