Long before the train at the center of “The Commuter” physically derails, its storyline and plausibility sputter out of control.
Liam Neeson plays Michael MacCauley, an ex-cop turned insurance salesman with a wife at home and a son who’s getting ready to enter college. MacCauley uneventfully rides the Hudson Line to work everyday, just like the rest of the working class passengers with whom he rubs elbows.
On the day he’s laid off from his job, he’s approached by a stranger (Vera Farmiga) who makes him a mysterious offer: identify the rider on the train named “Prynne” and slip a GPS on their person, and collect $100,000 for his efforts. He has until the Cold Spring stop to do it.
That’s all he has to go on, and he soon realizes he has eyes on him watching his every move. Anyone could be Prynne, the hows and whys of the deal will have to come later.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra — he did “Non-Stop” and “Run All Night” with Neeson, and “Orphan” with Farmiga — can barely hold things together, and logic jumps off the train at the first stop. At one point Neeson is pepper-sprayed by a fellow passenger, which he treats like a nice spritz to the face. And he manages to get in several knock-down, drag-out fights with others, which barely give anyone else on the train pause. Just another day on the Hudson north.
The skeletal, B-movie plotting is supposed to be self-propelling, but “The Commuter” is too ridiculous to get by on its own momentum. With twists that are telegraphed like a conductor is shouting them out ahead of time, this commute’s just not worth the trip.
Rated PG-13 for some intense action/violence, and language
Running time: 105 minutes