In case you forgot to look at the poster on the way into the theater, The Commuter spends its opening minutes showing us that Liam Neeson is, in fact, a commuter. He rides a train to and from New York each and every workday; he knows the conductors by their faces (they call him “Tarrytown”) and he even has a train buddy (Jonathan Banks). So when, on his journey home, a mysterious lady (Vera Farmiga) offers him 100 grand to find someone on the train who doesn’t belong, Neeson should be able to sniff this person out, post-haste.
Except… have you ever ridden a Metro-North train? No one belongs there. No one even looks at each other. Two passengers could be riding the same train for decades and not be able to pick each other out of a lineup.
But the workaday bonhomie that this movie presupposes is not even the most egregious of its fictions. Because, you see, Farmiga is merely the face of a huge and ridiculously convoluted conspiracy to locate and silence the witness of a crime—a conspiracy so intricate, it involves money stashed throughout the train, multiple assassins, an undercover FBI agent, explosive devices, and the entirety of the NYPD (which, it must be noted, has no jurisdiction once the train pulls north of the Bronx, but hey, let’s not get bogged down in reality). To make things stupider, the movie has Farmiga possessing omniscient abilities to see what’s happening on the train after she gets off, and purports that the conspirators have been able to determine what book the witness is currently reading, but can’t offer Neeson any other identifying clues whatsoever.
The Commuter is the latest in a long line of Liam Neeson old-tough-guy movies. There have been so many since the first Taken came out 10 years ago (!), you’ve probably lost track. I’m glad Neeson has carved out this productive and lucrative niche for himself—he’s someone I’ve always been genuinely happy to see onscreen. But The Commuter is so outlandish and so lacking in self-awareness, it makes Neeson look like a damned fool. Maybe The Commuter 2 will be about him getting revenge on this terrible movie.