Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Movies

Liam Neeson’s ‘The Commuter’ is terribly pedestrian action

Liam Neeson’s transportation troubles continue in The Commuter, ironically one of his more pedestrian action efforts.

This time Neeson’s misshapen nose for danger leads him onto a train, after Non-Stop air travel, Run(ning) All Night and automobiles (Taken 1, 2 or 3) nearly killed him. Well, not Neeson but his characters, each a variation on the family man with a particular set of deadly skills to protect them.

The commuter in question is Michael MacCauley, an insurance agent taking a train to work in Manhattan for 10 years. Michael has a loving wife (Elizabeth McGovern), a son heading to Syracuse, two mortgages and a few more personal details hammered out in clunky "casual" conversations. One reveals Michael used to be an NYPD officer. That’ll come in handy.

Michael has a bad day at work, getting laid off, and a worse train trip home, starting with a femme fatale (Vera Farmiga) making an offer: Michael will get $100,000 if he’ll identify a stranger on the train, someone who doesn’t belong there. Oh, and his family will be killed if he doesn’t do the job.

Michael begins stalking the aisles of passenger cars like a guy catching up on his FitBit numbers. After 10 years, other regular riders are kill-time acquaintances then suspects and/or corpses. Unfamiliar faces are likely to get punched.

The Commuter dives into an overly complex sort-of mystery about who’s the person Michael seeks and why someone just as mysterious wants him/her dead. It’s just a lowbrow Murder on (and off) the Orient Express. Nothing really spoilable since the villain is easy to spot by thriller standards and few clues matter until the "surprise" reveal.

We’re just here for the action, which takes a while. Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who often makes Neeson’s movie travel arrangements, is again better at brawny than brainy filmmaking. Michael’s escapades outside and underneath the train offer dumb thrills. The inevitable derailment — of the train, not his movie — is a model of ludicrous action. It takes too long for The Commuter to build a head of steam but it’s medium speed ahead after that.

Contact Steve Persall at spersall@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall.

Comments
How Lady Gaga's real life mirrors - and doesn't mirror - her character in 'A Star Is Born'

How Lady Gaga's real life mirrors - and doesn't mirror - her character in 'A Star Is Born'

Maybe you watched the trailer for "A Star Is Born," and thought, huh, that's weird. We're supposed to believe that Lady Gaga lacks the confidence to sing her own songs, or that she is unattractive, and, therefore, she couldn't have a singing career? ...
Published: 10/13/18
‘First Man’ aims to make us feel, and see, what Neil Armstrong felt and saw

‘First Man’ aims to make us feel, and see, what Neil Armstrong felt and saw

There’s enough going on in director Damien Chazelle’s tense, distinctive Neil Armstrong biopic First Man to leave the climactic, inspired Apollo 11 moon landing sequence aside for a few paragraphs. So hang in there, please, and we’ll get to the damn ...
Published: 10/11/18
What’s in theaters this week: ‘First Man,’ ‘Bad Times at the El Royale,’ ‘The Hate U Give’

What’s in theaters this week: ‘First Man,’ ‘Bad Times at the El Royale,’ ‘The Hate U Give’

From Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong to Goosebumps 2, here’s what movies are releasing this week.
Published: 10/10/18
Updated: 10/11/18
‘The Hate U Give’ is an essential movie for 2018

‘The Hate U Give’ is an essential movie for 2018

The movie examines Black Lives Matter in a powerful, timely and deeply moving tale.
Published: 10/09/18
Need a giant glacier? An Eiffel Tower? Tampa prop master Tandova Ecenia is selling them off after 38 years

Need a giant glacier? An Eiffel Tower? Tampa prop master Tandova Ecenia is selling them off after 38 years

TAMPA — Tandova Ecenia has her choice of how to ride off into the sunset — dozens of pony-on-a-stick toys, a covered wagon, a 65-foot pirate ship replica.“I have a little of everything,” Ecenia said with a laugh.Not for lo...
Published: 10/08/18
Why I’m done watching movies made by bad men

Why I’m done watching movies made by bad men

There are times when I’m just done. This is one of those times.It was reported this week that Mel Gibson is co-writing and directing a reboot of The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah’s revolutionary 1969 Western. Leaving aside whether we need this movie (we ...
Published: 10/04/18
So did Russian bots try to bring down 'Star Wars'? After furor, man who authored study says not exactly

So did Russian bots try to bring down 'Star Wars'? After furor, man who authored study says not exactly

The internet has been aflame this week over a study suggesting Russian trolls and bots had been deployed as part of a campaign to bring down one of the biggest movies in the "Star Wars" franchise."Russian trolls stoked 'Star Wars: The ...
Published: 10/03/18
Tampa Bay LGBTQ film fest reviews: ‘Good Manners,’ ‘TransMilitary,’ ‘Ideal Home’

Tampa Bay LGBTQ film fest reviews: ‘Good Manners,’ ‘TransMilitary,’ ‘Ideal Home’

The 29th annual Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival kicks off Friday with 31 feature films and 31 shorts. Feeling overwhelmed by the selection? tbt* correspondent Steve Warren has seen many of the films screening through Oct. 13. Here...
Published: 10/03/18
This weekend, the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival returns

This weekend, the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival returns

OPENING FRIDAY: VenomThe Marvel Cinematic Universe’s norm is to leave no doubt about who’s good and who’s bad. Think of Thanos, the Vulture or Dr. Doom. There’s plenty of conflict in director Ruben Fleischer’s Venom, but there’s a lot more gray area ...
Published: 10/03/18
Tampa Bay film festival showcases mosaic of LGBTQ life

Tampa Bay film festival showcases mosaic of LGBTQ life

You don’t have to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to attend the 29th annual Tampa Bay International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Once I would have added "but it helps," half in jest, but that’s not so true anymore.In the ’70s, open-minded st...
Published: 10/03/18