REVIEW: Non-Stop

10 06 2014

Liam Neeson’s career has taken one of the stranger trajectories in recent memory.  Beginning as a prestige dramatic actor whose stunning performance in “Schindler’s List” earned him an Oscar nomination, he was one of few with the gravitas to be the voice of God in the “Narnia” series.  Though he had a brief stint as a Jedi in the maligned 1999 “Star Wars” prequel, few would have thought of Neeson as an action star.

That was, until 2009’s game-changing hit “Taken,” the film that still sends chills down the spine of any student about travel abroad.  Playing the ultimate protective papa bear, Neeson channels Jack Bauer by way of Dick Cheney with such tenacity that it led to reprising various shades of the role in “Clash of the Titans.”  And “The A-Team.”  And “Unknown.”  (Heck, it’s already at the parodic stage as shown by “A Million Ways to Die in the West.”)  Neeson can now go on “Saturday Night Live” and threaten Vladimir Putin, presumptively as … himself.

Non-Stop” may well be the zenith of the Neeson craze, signaling the point at which pop culture accepts him as a Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal-type figure.  His larger-than-life presence on the screen now apparently means we can and should accept a heightened state of suspension of disbelief.  Neeson might as well wear a cape because he’s a superhero in our real world that doesn’t involve aliens, time travel, or any other Marvel gimmick you can think of.

Non-Stop

In a way, this kind of star power is refreshing.  Those kinds of ridiculous action movies from the ’80s and ’90s that bleed testosterone really aren’t getting made anymore, largely because actors like Tom Cruise take themselves way too seriously to take a role of this type.  “Non-Stop” is the kind of movie for which “The Expendables” is nostalgically pining, and Neeson delivers a non-geriatric shot of adrenaline that proves for a decent ride.

The ride is a little bumpy, though.  Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who worked with Neeson on “Unknown,” once again bungles the film in the final act.  We let a lot slide because of Neeson’s dogged air marshal persona, but the big reveal of the tormentors who are killing passengers onboard his transatlantic flight just turns out to be too ridiculous even by the film’s own logic.

“Non-Stop” packs its seats full of an impressive ensemble cast, including Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy (that guy you recognize from everything but mainly “Argo“), Corey Stoll (Peter Russo from “House of Cards”), and even a pre-Oscar nominated Lupita Nyong’o.  They each play stock characters from murder mysteries – the cop, the tormented soul, the “maid” (flight attendant here) – below their levels of acting.

And not like they’re the focus of the film, anyways.  It’s non-stop Neeson at full throttle.  It’s not a first-class flight all the way, but it is unabashedly what it is.  B-2stars

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