And the conductor only asked for Liam’s ticket! Image from “The Commuter.”
By Ray O’Hanlon
So what do I do if Liam Neeson sits down beside me on my Hudson Line train one of these evenings?
Head for the door? Perhaps the emergency window exit.
Neeson’s latest screen adventure (released Jan. 12) has him heading home on the Hudson Line after an especially lousy day at work.
Actually, the last day as he has just been fired from his insurance job.
He is a ten-year veteran of the Metro North line made famous in not a few movies down the years, most recently in “The Girl on the Train.”
I have years on Liam being now in my 25th as a Hudson Liner.
You would think that Metro North would give me an award, perhaps even a free monthly ticket, which lately costs an arm with the leg bit likely to follow in the not too distant future.
Truth is, there are veterans of the line far more grizzled then even me.
One or two look like they could deliver a discourse on steam engines.
Still, this merely confirms that life expectancy for train riders might well exceed that of those who have to drive to work in New York City, a task requiring skills that might exceed even Liam Neeson’s generous quota.
With a bit of luck.
But luck is something that Neeson’s character, Michael McCauley – name of a pal from Ballymena days perhaps? - has run out of on a commute that is about to turn into the ‘Taken’ of Hudson 123.
As the Daily News review put it: “Five years from retirement, mortgaged to the teeth, he lives paycheck to paycheck. He’s got bills and a son headed to a private college.”
Anyway, matters proceed sharply downhill for Mr. McCauley on a level track.
Actually, on a good day in the non-reel world worries can recede a bit on the Hudson Line, one of three Metro North routes that take commuters northward from Grand Central every day of the year.
The Hudson one wins by a track mile marker when it comes to scenic splendor.
Unless it’s midwinter, like it is now, and you’re on a non-daylight train.
But while “The Commuter” delivers a few glimpses of the famed river valley, lined as it is on one side by the snaking rail line, the folks riding Liam’s homeward choo choo end up being somewhat distracted.
Even from their phones!
I’ll not go into the plot because going into imaginative overdrive with the 5.57 a near prospect isn’t what any doctor would order.
But I confess that I have been tempted from time to time to imagine the secret lives of some of my fellow commuters.
You do get to know many of them on sight of course.
A few, including a couple of conductors, are assigned nicknames.
It’s like being back in high school.
You sit down and let someone else drive things along.
Which Liam Neeson does in this instance.
The reviews for “The Commuter” have been reasonably encouraging and generally acknowledge Neeson’s ability to carry an audience from terminal to terminus.
Thankfully, no reviewer I have read thus far has been mean enough to call “The Commuter” a train wreck.
Ya Boya Liam!
Some scenes and plot lines are a bit of a stretch of course, but truth being stranger than fiction I’m sure I miss a few real life plot stretchers when I burrow into my newspaper or book, or snooze on the way home, this until the train reaches the Philipse Manor station, used by no less a directorial luminary than Alfred Hitchcock in “North by Northwest.”
Actually, the plot trundles along thus: Neeson’s character is an insurance salesman who is on his daily commute home.
A mysterious stranger contacts him and offers him $100,000 if he identifies a hidden passenger on his train before the last stop. As he works against the clock to solve the puzzle, he realizes he is caught in the midst of a deadly criminal conspiracy and that his life and the lives of his fellow passengers are at risk.
This looks workable and should be enough for a director to resist the temptation to create the false impression of a fast moving plot by means of a fast moving train on a line which, in reality, sees a lot of 30 mph movement and zero at 90.
But hey, that’s enough of platforms and plots.
I have a train to catch.