NEW YORK CITY - Thank goodness for Liam Neeson! I say that because until his action films started to play this time of year only the dregs were released in January. This month was where bad movies go to die. Now, "The Commuter" may not be the best movie ever made, but it is far from the worst.
As I tell you the plot, please bear in mind none of this could ever happen. Plausible - it is not, but I was having too much fun to notice until the very end when "The Commuter" does go off the rails.
What ends so violently begins as a routine with my old pal Lee Harris from radio station 1010 WINS reading the news in the morning.
"Most of us ride this train every day," says Liam Neeson's character about the Metro-North train he rides back and forth to the city every day.
He's an ex-cop who now sells insurance headed home after a bad day at work when the proverbial mysterious stranger, played by Vera Farmiga, sits opposite him, engages him in conversation, and asks simply, "what if I asked you to do one little thing."
She asks him to find one person on the train who "does not belong. All you have to do is find them." The ex-cop responds, "why would I do it?"
She offers to pay him $100,000, but her question is never answered to my satisfaction -- though I admit that much money can be a powerful motivator!
"That money is yours if you do this one little thing," she says. NOT so little it turns out because she has murder on her mind.
He balks, but by then the evil forces in control have his wife and son in custody. It doesn't help his peace of mind when he witnesses a staged accident outside the train before it even leaves NYC.
By then, I was hooked. Our hero doesn't know who he is looking for but realizes the person is "a witness in deep with the wrong kind of people. If I identify him, someone on this train is gonna kill him."
Him or her, and I didn't guess the identity of the witness he must identify.
Watching Neeson fight, it's amazing to contemplate he is 65 years old now, but the statute of limitations hasn't run out just yet for him. The big man can still make his fight scenes convincing and look cool while doing them.
"The Commuter" was made in London with a 30-ton rail car imported from here and a spirit that remains true to our city.
"If the train don't kill me," the conductor says, "then the people will."
That line might be the most true-to-life element in the whole film. It was reportedly spoken by a real conductor interviewed by one of the writers as part of his research for "The Commuter."
Check your brain at the door and have a great time at this one.