February 28, 2014 at 1:00 am

Review: 'Non-Stop' flies in circles with endless suspects

Liam Neeson stars as an air marshal with a checkered past who must solve an airplane mur der mystery in 'Non-Stop.' (Universal Pictures)

“Non-Stop” spends so much time trying to outwit the audience it ends up outwitting itself.

It’s one of those movies where everyone is a suspect and everyone is dismissed as a suspect, and the more they’re dismissed as a suspect, the more they start looking like the suspect.

Liam Neeson, playing one of his signature grizzled butt-kickers, is Bill Marks, a tortured air marshal with so many skeletons in his closet he can barely keep it shut. He’s on a trans-Atlantic flight when he gets a text message from a passenger who wants $150 million wired to his account or he’s going to start offing passengers. It’s up to Marks to diffuse the situation.

But who is it? Is it the mysterious woman (Julianne Moore) who really needs a window seat and is played by way too big a star to be just an ordinary passenger? Or is it the New York cop (Corey Stoll) with the surly attitude? Perhaps it’s the quiet flight attendant (Oscar hopeful Lupita Nyong’o, in likely her final bit role), or maybe it’s the bookish guy (Scoot McNairy) who asked to borrow Marks’ lighter at the airport?

“Non-Stop” paints everyone as a suspect — even the little girl who Marks helps board the plane has shifty eyes — to the point where it’s best to stop trying to figure anything out and just let the silliness roll.

If only there were more silliness. Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra, who also drove the Neeson vehicle “Unknown,” runs a tight ship, perhaps too tight given the material. When it runs out of angles, the script tries to shoehorn a wrongheaded political twist into the mix.

“Non-Stop” is a goofy action movie. It would have helped if someone had told that to the filmmakers.

'Non-Stop'

GRADE: C

Rated PG-13: For intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references

Running time: 110 minutes

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