Release date: February 28, 2014
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Written by: John W. Richardson, Chris Roach, and Ryan Engle
Official website: NonStoptheFilm.com
You have to give Liam Neeson credit for his determination to establish himself as the go to bad ass in modern action cinema. At this point in his career, Neeson is as reliable an action star as 90s-era Bruce Willis. That's not a knock, exactly. Bruce was always Bruce -- good, even when the movie wasn't.
Now that torch belongs to Liam Neeson, legendary Jedi, trainer of Batman, and a man with a very special set of skills that Hollywood is going to exploit at every chance they get.
In "Non-Stop", Neeson plays Bill Marks, a US Air Marshal. He's a drunk, a bad father, and thanks to some seriously under-developed and vague subplots, apparently has a history that leaves others to question his capabilities of handling a stressful situation. But because he is non-stop, none of this slows Bill down as he wakes to a bottle in order to help him with dealing with yet another flight across the pond.
This little set up makes for the perfect set up for some bad guys to come in and try and use Bill's weaknesses against him in order to wrangle $150 million from the airlines....or something like that. They execute their plan via text message, which pop up in cute little bubbles, laying out a plan to kill someone on a plane every 20 minutes until the money is exchanged. Of course, everyone is a suspect, especially Bill.
The story moves at a nice pace, allowing for the suspense to lay it on nice and thick. There's the usual cast of diverse but cliched characters aboard the plane, most of which are cast in the light of suspicion at some point or another. Julianne Moore and Scoot McNairy play fellow passengers who try and help Bill flush out the villain before the flight is brought to a fatal and horrific ending.
But this is a Liam Neeson movie. More importantly it's a Liam Neeson movie that's all about him taking charge and kicking butt. He's good enough at what he's doing in these movies now that it's like a second nature to him. He excels here when he's on his own, mainly because he's never really given much time to develop any real chemistry with anyone else, as they are all constantly being cast in the shadow of speculation. But, it still feels like he's just kinda going through the motions.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who has worked with Neeson before in "Unknown" has also done other notable thrillers from "Orphan" to the unremarkable remake "House of Wax". He handles the build up nicely, establishing some interesting and unpredictable moments, but it all comes to a disappointing finish when the bad guys trite and obvious motive is revealed. You may actually wish Liam Neeson would go after the screenwriter(s) -- there were three plugging away on this one -- in the sequel for wasting a fun setup with such a blatantly unimaginative purpose.
That being said, a Liam Neeson movie is a Liam Neeson movie. Buckle in, sit tight, and enjoy the ride. There may be a little clichéd turbulence along the way, but it's still a decent journey, even if it feels all too familiar.
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