Neeson's skill set keeps action on track

Liam Neeson's action heroes have a particular set of skills but they also have personal struggles that are relatable notes the director of 'The Commuter.'

My advice for anybody planning to travel on mass transit - if you see Liam Neeson, change your travel plans.

The fourth - and least satisfying - collaboration between director Jaume Collet-Serra and Liam Neeson (after "Unknown", "Non-Stop" and "Run All Night"), "The Commuter" places Neeson's now-familiar AARP-eligible action hero, this time an insurance salesman and ex-cop named Mike MacCauley, on the 6:25 train home from Manhattan to suburban NY.

Liam Neeson once again gets to show off his very particular set of skills as an ex-cop who gets dragged into a risky scheme while commuting home from New York City.

As the first trailer reveals, Michael's been commuting into New York City for the past 10 years. He knows everyone on the train, which is one of the reasons why he's the flawless target for manipulation.

But one day is a particularly bad one.

But on the train, he meets with a mysterious woman (Vera Farmiga) who challenges him with a request to find a passenger on the train who "doesn't belong". "The Commuter" rides very much the same rail as his previous movies with Collet-Serra; it's a hostage crisis tick-tock that speeds straight ahead. But we really like to have a movie once in a while where we just do what we like. With pandering references to the big banks throughout, "The Commuter", has just enough smarts to make its final destination disappointing. If your answer is no, then "The Commuter" is a tense, mildly gripping, and overall satisfying entry in Neeson's ever-expanding action oeuvre.

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But Collet-Serra, whose "Non-Stop" similarly relished the confined space of an airplane cabin, is too interested with swooping his camera through the train to care much about the blur on the outside. The Stratocaster showdown happens when he confronts a guy carrying a guitar case; using his observation skills, Michael realizes that guy isn't planning on using it for band practice, and the battle is on.

Liam Neeson has built his late career around being your dad, or rather, the power fantasy that your dad wishes he were.

Their movies are, in part, parables for the terrorism age. That he gets stronger as the movie goes on, though, is a bit insane. It has to defy physics.

We had a little chat with Liam at the Irish premiere of The Commuter this evening in Dublin. This is a disaster for Michael, who's five years from retirement and is about to send Danny off to college - adding to the family's already-tight finances. If this just sounds like Non-Stop on a train, you're right.

Subtlety is not a strength here, though that's sure to elicit applause in most theaters where "The Commuter" will sell out. She strikes up a seemingly friendly chat with Michael that includes a hypothetical question, one that seems increasingly real as it goes on: Would he do something that would bring himself great financial reward if he would never know the impact to the other person? Like in "Non-Stop", where Neeson played an air marshal, the protagonist of "The Commuter" must wrestle with the morality of uncovering the one threat in a sea of maybe-innocent, maybe-guilty faces, some of them "regulars" (daily riders), some of them unfamiliar. No Metro-North train stops at 86th street -- the tunnels can barely handle the trains they have now.


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