Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Review: The Commuter

The Commuter
Cert: 15 / 104 mins / Dir. Jaume Collet-Serra / Trailer

Oh Liam, you've done it, well done mate! After all these years of struggling you've found a writer/director who will (twice, now) scribble some backstory about your character's Irish origins into an early scene, in a move to reassure audiences that the accent is supposed to be like that. I am genuinely happy about this. The pair's latest collaboration, The Commuter is not to be held too close to the light, of course, what with its central premise being the absolute fantasy that any seasoned working-age user of public transport would engage in a conversation with a chatty stranger, rather than just exhaling audibly while staring at their book/newspaper/phone.

So, in Jaume Collet-Serra's urban thriller, our plucky hero Michael MacCauley*1 takes the train home after being laid off from his insurance job, only to find himself talking with the aforementioned stranger who has an intriguing proposition: find the passenger who doesn't belong*2 on the commuter train*3, plant a tracking device on them and pocket a hundred grand in cash for his trouble*4. Naturally, things escalate in the way they tend to do when a beleagured Neeson tells a stranger that he has a family he quite likes. Before long someone's getting punched right in the vestibule and Liam's in a race against the clock (indeed, against the track) to find the crucial missing link before the train reaches its deadly destination with passengers getting picked off one-by-one. A kind of Source Code On The Orient Express, if you will.

And all-in-all, the film is somehow not awful. Many, many types of ridiculous of course, but once the script establishes that the stops on this line are all four minutes apart while in the actual run-time that takes around fifteen minutes, you pretty much know where you are. The elongation of the Penelope Pitstop cliffhangers is only paralleled by the Tom & Jerry style resilience of our punchy/kicky/shooty hero (whom the script goes to the trouble of identifying as being a 60yr old man, whilst subjecting him to trials which would wipe out a 30yr old). On that subject, the movie also has some of the most haphazard fight choreography I've ever seen committed to the screen, but the choppy cinematography isn't necessarily helping matters.

With a third-act-reveal telegraphed as firmly as a station name on a departure board, the story (apparently written by three people) tries its best to twist and turn against audience expectations, but is as much on-the-rails as its locomotive setting. To be fair, I pretty much chortled my way through the final 40 minutes or so, although man this is longer than it needs to be.

As Liam Neeson Punching People In The Face movies go, The Commuter is perfectly fine. But it's also perfectly forgettable*5. Which is also fine.

Bonus props for casting Patrick Wilson as a cop named Alex Murphy. Now I desperately want this to be the stealth-prequel for another Robocop reboot...

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
Liam Neeson Films™.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
The natural home for this movie is in a cardboard 'Gifts For Father's Day' display stand with a £4 sticker on the front..

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
By all means rent it, or wait until it's got that sticker before adding it to your Liam Neeson Shelf™.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
Well, no.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't. Ridiculous.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Qui-Gon Jinn is in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 A quasi-retired Chicago cop who is now a struggling family man in an unjust world and we should really just be thankful he's not a recovering alcoholic like every other Liam Neeson Punching People In The Face movie hero... [ BACK ]

*2 "Someone on this train does not belong!" quips the mysterious Joanna. But Michael somehow does not reply "Yeah, it's you isn't it? Sitting there, attempting a conversation with fellow travellers like that's a completely non-sociopathic thing to do during rush hour. Now if you don't mind, I'm idly scrolling down my Facebook timeline, silently judging everyone I wish I didn't know. Leave me. The fuck. Alone..." [ BACK ]

*3 "I've never been on a commuter train before!" exclaims Joanna with suspiciously fluttering eyelashes. But Michael somehow does not reply "Yeah, it's just a normal train, mate. They run all the time. This is a train which happens to be full of commuters because of what time of day it is. There's nothing remotely fucking special about all this, I assure you. You need to get out more, although I really wish you hadn't, today." [ BACK ]

*4 "I guess you must know everyone on this train?" purrs Joanna inexplicably. But Michael somehow does not reply "Look, this 'talking to strangers' thing, didn't your mum tell you anything about how weird or wrong it is? I don't want to talk to you. Christ, there are two people in this carriage from my office and I'm not even talking to them. Go. The fuck. Away." [ BACK ]

*5 Naturally, if there's a sequel starring Jason Statham and it's set on a shuttle bus into a business park in the home counties, I'll be all over that... [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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