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Liam Neeson takes the fight to the rails in "The Commuter"

Liam Neeson takes the fight to the rails in

In 2018, Jaume Collet-Serra directed "The Commuter". His son (Dean-Charles Chapman) is about to go off to college, but the family is struggling financially following the 2008 crash.

As for the action element of this whodunnit, fans of Neeson's Taken films won't be disappointed, even if the movie mostly takes place on the rails. It's nearly become its own subgenre with entries like Liam Neeson in the Arctic and Liam Neeson on a Plane.

Overall, action films led by Neeson have grossed over $1.6 billion at the box office during this time. One shot in particular stands out - as Michael realizes the breadth of the task ahead of him, the camera moves backward through the auto and into the next vehicle, revealing train auto after train auto, each teeming with passengers and potential targets. Intelligent, tantalising layers that will have you asking, "What would I do in Neeson's situation, assuming I was as kick-ass as him?"

This go-round, happily married devoted father Michael MacCauley (Neeson) gets chatted up by the lovely and mysterious Joanna (Vera Farmiga) as he heads home on his nightly commute.

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Farmiga's performance as Joanna is slightly more innovative than Neeson's, but iscut short by the character's limited appearance.Joanna's first scene opposite Michael sets up her character as a quirky femme fatale - she charms with lighthearted banter and curiously wonders aloud about the individual personalities of the various commuters, but doesn't hesitate to threaten their lives in order to scare Michael into compliance. Making the most of her little on-screen role, Farmiga displays so much of her character in that simple meeting.

As fun as Neeson's past action movies are, The Commuter misses the mark. There's a schlocky Hitchcock vibe to the whole thing with one-take fistfights standing alongside contra-zooms. The Commuter is above all else the Liam Neeson show, and it wisely never loses sight of that throughout its runtime. "Unknown" and "Non-Stop" are better efforts, but he also was working from better scripts. He likewise uses the cramped and dingy interiors of a commuter train to positive effect here, when it comes to generating suspense and tension. She and Neeson are interesting together in the early scene on the train, and we are left wanting much more of that.

The Commuter is neither Neeson nor Collet-Serra's best thriller yet, but it's a perfectly serviceable genre movie that delivers everything audiences expect from Neeson's action films nowadays - to a fault. The pace is such that you might not take much notice of this as the movie barrels toward its climax, and Neeson's presence is so commanding that he nearly single-handedly makes up for all the shortcomings. At the same time, The Commuter is enjoyably ridiculous and offers enough entertainment to help beat away the doldrums of January. But with Collet-Sera in the conductor's seat, and Neeson his increasingly eager attendant, the film stays on track.

The Commuter begins playing in US theaters nationwide tonight. Collet-Serra also delights in tormenting Michael with incongruous visual gags, like a splashy advertisement, posted on the side of a building in Harlem, insisting that "You could be home right now" - a pretty empty guarantee to a man in the thick of a conspiracy that could claim his or his loved one's lives.


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