MOVIE REVIEW: Liam Neeson back in action in The Commuter
LIAM Neeson says he's done making action films.
"I'm sixty-f - king-five," he told journalists at the Toronto Film Festival a few months back. "Audiences are eventually going to go: 'Come on.'"
If The Commuter, the distinguished Irish actor's penultimate outing in said genre, is anything to go by, his impending "retirement" can't happen quickly enough.
Age, however, is not the issue in this unsavoury B-grade thriller - Neeson is still a remarkably virile screen presence.
It's the screenplay that derails him as a performer on the back of a string of lucrative but questionable career choices that have undermined an impressive body of work (from Silence to Schindler's List).
Taken, an ugly vigilante film that spawned two sequels, marked Neeson's unlikely transformation into a kick-ass avenger upon its release in 2008.
He and The Commuter's director Jaume Collet-Serra have already churned out three action-thrillers, Unknown (2011), Non-Stop (2014) and Run All Night (2015).
In their latest collaboration, Neeson plays Michael MacCauley, a by-the-book insurance salesman who has been catching the same train to work every day since handing in his police badge - for the sake of his family.
Having remortgaged his house to send his son to college, he is backed into a corner after being unceremoniously retrenched by his employer.
That desperation explains why he is momentarily tempted by the "hypothetical" proposition of an enigmatic stranger (Vera Farmiga) who approaches him on the train on the way home, offering a large sum of money in return for one anonymous act.
Before he has fully understood what's at stake, MacCauley has entered into a Faustian pact from which there is no going back.
The body count quickly mounts up as he tries to put together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle involving a crime, an eyewitness, and a bunch of corrupt officials.
Most of the deaths are at his brutally efficient hand.
Neeson has a knack for making his characters seem more honourable than their behaviour - but ultimately a man is the sum of his acts.
And the saccharine portrayal of MacCauley's domestic life sits uncomfortably alongside the bloody events on the train.
In The Commuter, Neeson, like his character, is simply punching the clock.
The Commuter opens on Thursday.
THE COMMUTER (M)
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson
Verdict: Pulp friction