It’s that time of the year again, the time where film studios release movies that even they don’t want to see. The month of January is so synonymous with trash, it has turned into a celebration of Hollywood’s waste management pickup. This week we have a film that spent YEARS in development hell, which is always a good sign for a movie. After watching this, I am about 97.8% certain there is no way this film is getting it’s 50 million dollar budget back.
The Commuter stars Liam Neeson as Michael McCauley, an insurance salesman whose life manages to completely fall apart before his lunch break. Michael spends most of his miserable existence on the daily train commute going back and forth endlessly. One day, a mysterious paranormal investigator (Vera Farmiga) offers him $100,000 in cash if he identifies a passenger on the train before the last stop. Shortly after realizing that this shit has gotten real, he works against the clock to solve a deadly criminal conspiracy, save the lives of his fellow passengers, and wonder “What would they have done if he DIDN’T take the money?”
The film spends the entire 1st act legitimately beating you over the head with messages of classism. Michael CONSTANTLY talks about how he worked hard and busted his ass, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter but the system doesn’t work for him. There are mentions of the 2008 financial crisis, criticisms of big banks; there is even a cartoonish evil former Goldman Sachs broker that Nelson awkwardly pauses the film to say ‘fuck you on behalf of the middle class’ (Not a joke, he says this).
It’s like “Ok movie we get it, rich people are evil, capitalism doesn’t work, Occupy Wallstreet” get on with the story already. What makes this frustrating is the constant classism beating has little to no bearing on the plot, but only to give you a BS reason why his character suddenly needs $100,000 in the first place (BTW he worked for 10 years in insurance in NYC and saved NOTHING?)
When the film finally remembers its own plot, it isn’t half bad. Neeson basically beats up guys 40 years younger than him, does stunts no 65-year-old man can do, and the film becomes an action version of Murder on the Orient Express. But it doesn’t take long to get stupid again when Michael has a full-fledged gunfight while throwing a man out the window of a moving train…and people in the very next car don’t hear ANY of this. The whole story is based on a MacGuffin and a pointless one at that. For the 20 minutes of a mediocre story in this film, you only have to wonder if the film spent more time on the plot and less time on the lecture, they could have turned this into being a decent rental.
If The Commuter didn’t go face first into schlock in the 3rd act, including Liam Neeson being reunited with his family who only seem mildly concerned that three guys were sent to their house to kill them and that Michael barely survived a massive train derailment…I could have given it two stars…but I didn’t. The Commuter is the official welcome into the January season and we are already off to a rocky start.