Since ‘Taken’, the unlikely action hero Liam Neeson has plied his on-screen trade as a seemingly upright citizen with hitherto unsuspected ass-kicking skills. For his fourth collaboration with Catalan schlock-peddler Jaume Collet-Serra (‘Unknown’, ‘Non-Stop’), however, the formula gets an added dash of Hitchcockian homage, though the stale results suggest his era as a retirement-age hard man has now run its course.
After years of wage-slave routine as a Wall Street number cruncher, Neeson’s ex-NYPD officer Michael McCauley gets his redundancy package at a moment which spells financial disaster. Still, unlikely salvation may prevail on the Metro-North line’s return commute, where a slinky, no-good Vera Farmiga offers him a unique proposal. All he has to do is help her identify an out-of-place passenger among the 6pm regulars and there’s a pile of cash waiting for him. Tempting? You bet. Potentially fatal? That too.
It’s a zingy set-up, but just as quickly it all hits the sidings. Neeson’s course of action inevitably involves running, punching and shooting, but the plot is about as convincing as his badly dyed hair and Collet-Serra throws CGI at the problem with the giddy despair of a man who’s just missed his last train home. There are hints of the pulpy crowd-pleaser ‘The Commuter’ might have been, but it’s too clunky and there are groans where the laughs should be. Like most workday journeys home, at best it’s functional, at worst a total snooze. The re-Nees-ance, it seems, is over.