After having just lost his job at an insurance company, Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson) is presented with an unusual proposition by a stranger on his train ride home. Joanna (Vera Farmiga) promises a much needed financial payday if Michael can find the passenger who 'doesn't belong' and is carrying a bag. Michael's former life as a cop makes him suspicious, but with a kid about to go to college and a second mortgage on his house, he takes the deal to find "The Commuter."
Newbie screenwriters Byron Willinger & Philip de Blasi have spun the transit train version of director Jaume Collet-Serra's Neeson-starring airplane thriller "Non-Stop" into something he calls a 'spiritual sequel.' Consider that fair warning, as this is just another junky January thriller where logic is thrown under the bus in favor of enough red herrings to open a fishmonger's and 'twists' that exist for their momentary spin. Neeson, it must be said, gives a gung-ho performance and a couple of supporting players pop, but "The Commuter" goes off the rails long before Collet-Serra's set does.
Joanna, who introduces herself as a behavioral scientist, asks Mike if he'd be willing to do a small thing that will have consequences for another passenger that he will never know. Mike can't imagine why he'd agree to such a thing until he hears about the reward, $100K, 25K of which Joanna tells him is hidden in the train's bathroom. He has until Cold Spring's station to find her mark.
Mike finds the cash, but has no intention of potentially endangering another passenger. That has been foreseen, however, Mike's phone swiped outside the train, his wife's (Elizabeth McGovern) wedding ring delivered at the next stop as a warning and commuting buddy Walt ('Better Caul Saul's' Jonathan Banks) shoved in front of a bus before his eyes. Mike borrows Tony's (Andy Nyman, "Kick-Ass 2") phone and makes a call to Alex Murphy (Patrick Wilson, Neeson's "A-Team" costar), the former partner he'd just met for a drink, asking that a squad car be sent to his home. He also starts arousing suspicions, asking Conductor Jimmy (Adam Nagaitis, "Suffragette," adding some levity) if there is a way to tell where passengers are headed (there is, using an antiquated ticket system) and reporting to Conductor Sam (Colin McFarlane, "The Dark Knight"), who knows him, three passengers with bags acting strangely. He takes on one (Killian Scott, "Calvary") himself, getting battered and bloodied in the process, only to later find the man's body secreted beneath the floor, an FBI badge in his pocket.
Along the way, he'll learn of a missing witness to the murder of a city planner, engage in a game of poker with Tony and unknown passenger Jackson (Roland Møller, "Atomic Blonde"), get into a shouting match with an obnoxious Wall St. broker (Shazad Latif, 'Penny Dreadful's' Jeckyll), set a young woman on a straighter path (Florence Pugh, "Lady MacBeth") and terrify a nurse (Clara Lago). When Joanna's team, embedded on the train to 'watch' him, realize Mike may have the upper hand with Cold Spring approaching, the train's brakes are disabled with a dangerous turn ahead.
The climactic derailment is a visual sludge, its aftermath another standoff revealing 'good' guys as bad and the usual yadda yadda. The screenwriters ties themselves into knots serving up 'gotchas' easily seen coming, their plot strands flapping in the breeze. If you're in the mood for cinematic junk food, "The Commuter" fills the bill.
Robin did not see this film.
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