Monday, January 15, 2018

The Commuter

Disappointing finish to a weekend of new releases, although not expected - stuff doesn't come out in January unless it's expanding or getting dumped, with just a few exceptions (not enough people went to see Paddington 2 this weekend!), and the Somerville Theatre had it in one of the even-numbered rooms despite what you'd think would be less mainstream stuff also playing. It wasn't going to be good.

Still, it was disappointingly bad; you expect a certain amount of competence from Neeson & Collet-Serra, and this thing was just dull nonsense

The Commuter

* ½ (out of four)
Seen on 14 January 2018 in Somerville Theatre #4 (first-run, DCP)

I've long repeated the adage that you can make any thriller something like 20% better by setting it on a train, but The Commuter challenges that rule in the strongest manner possible. Maybe it doesn't apply to stories that can only take place on a train, or maybe this story would be even worse transplanted to a stationary location, but either way, it's a remarkably stupid movie that wastes a lot of time before it even has a chance to become the entertaining sort of silly.

It gives us Michael MacCauley (Liam Neeson), a sixty-year-old former detective who has been selling insurance for the past ten years, taking the train into New York from Tarrytown every day, filling his time by reading along with his son's assignments for English class. At least, until today, when he's fired and can't quite bring himself to tell his wife Karen (Elizabeth McGovern) right away, meeting his former partner Alex (Patrick Wilson) for a few drinks before taking his normal 6:22 home. That's when he meets Joanna (Vera Farmiga), who tells him that there is twenty-five thousand dollars hidden in the bathroom and another seventy-five in it for him if he can find someone headed for Cold Springs - not a regular - code-named "Prin" and put a location tag on their bag. Michael soon figures out that this group means to tag Prin for assassination, but if the money is the carrot, a threat against his family is the stick, and there are people on the train watching to make sure he complies.

This is a ridiculously complicated plan, which is not necessarily a terrible thing in and of itself, but it's a complicated plan that runs far too obvious a risk of failure - what if Michael just can't figure out who the mystery person is? - and which doesn't really give anybody enough to do. Heck, even without Michael having a phone of his own, it could probably be thwarted by him walking from car to car and loudly announcing what's going on. Instead, he walks from car to car, acts kind of squirrely, does much less effective things that backfire, but never really seems to be solving a puzzle, but even getting him to do that requires a conspiracy with enough manpower on and off the train to make Michael utterly unnecessary. It also creates a bad rhythm for the movie - with stops every four minutes in the city and just slightly less often as the train moves to the suburbs, there's a stop-and-go pace that never lets the film build up any sort of momentum.

Full review at EFC

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