The Commuter 4K UHD Blu-ray Review

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If Liam Neeson Boards, Get Out

The latest in the “Liam Neeson punches dudes” genre works to the extent these movies do. It’s a competent retread of Neeson’s Non-Stop, replacing the plane for the New York subway system. Here, Neeson needs to find someone in exchange for cash, leading to an inevitable maelstrom of chaos. The Commuter is fine. Just fine.

Neeson plays an average middle American, struggling financially and bit by the 2008 Wall Street meltdown. Commuter uses that basis of economic uncertainty (setting events during the 2016 election season) for a bit of purpose in otherwise junky entertainment.

Tight confines limit filmmaking space, leaving Commuter visually plain aside from a creatively inspired, single take brawl with invisible edits. Most of Commuter’s time is spent following Neeson as he wanders through a New York subway car. That’s intelligent though as clues fall into place through visual tricks and characters form. In terms of activity, most of the set-up is a lifeless slog, waiting for the chaos and tension to come. Of course, this being a train movie, there’s a derailment coming too.

[Neeson’s] still having fun being typecast even into his 60s

Commuter uses a myriad of cliches and tropes to function. In its heart, Commuter bears resemblance to Hitchcock, the cinematic whodunit but without the master’s tension. Neeson is fine, doing his thing as he angrily spouts words into a phone and stares down potential targets. He’s still having fun being typecast even into his 60s. As long as Neeson can go, he’ll undoubtedly keep on.

That’s okay. Despite the predictable nature and formulaic stature, Neeson carries this one. It’s energetic and sharp. What it lacks in budgetary-derived class, Commuter makes up for with enthusiasm. Growing peril continues to increase stakes, and lean action design creates thrills. By the end, Neeson punched out a slew of potential villains, leading to crisscrossing finish with satisfying closure.

There’s (barely) enough morality to give Commuter cause. Neeson’s character, desperate to help his family, takes an obviously bogus money deal. In time, he comes to appreciate his wife and son more than the dollar, partly represented by an abrasive Wall Street trader seated on the train. Neeson gives the financial egotist a middle finger “from the American middle class,” setting up a sure audience-pleaser. From there, it’s repetitive but the fisticuffs are fine enough to carry a pedestrian thriller.

Video (4K UHD)

Via a 4K master from a 3.4K source, Commuter marginally benefits from this format. The bevy of green screen backgrounds restricts resolution, lending this film a softened appearance. Detail does succeed at times. Some of the early aerials of New York pile on sharpness. Some close-ups gain exceptional fidelity and clarity. Digital work holds off noise.

Restrictive color holds dearly to a slate of blues and teals. Occasional glimmers of sunlight pour orange into the train’s windows, a nice break in the dulled color. Flesh tones appear ghostly for much of the runtime, pale and dull. The UHD adds density over the Blu-ray though, beefing up the color.

Adoring the use of shadows, black levels strike forcefully. Commuter isn’t lacking in powerful depth. Detail holds even with Neeson’s dark suit, avoiding pockets of crush. Tunnels pose challenges to the mastering; the transfer process holds up. HDR effects won’t liven the opposite end, mundane and passive until the shining lights of police cars near the end. Those pop.

Video (Blu-ray)

Hindered by inconsistent black crush and pale color scheme, the Blu-ray represents the finished master as-is. Luckily, there’s plenty of resolution to pull from, benefiting this disc in terms of sharp fidelity and facial definition. Exteriors look wonderful.

While strong in terms of brightness, detail is often sucked into the shadows. That limits depth with an overly dark aesthetic. Some noise butts into the image, generally a background distraction at worst.

Audio

For the first two thirds of Commuter the Atmos mix offers plenty of showy ambiance. The train interior rocks and shakes, while tracks make the wheels react with a satisfying metallic ping. This all travels around the soundstage, keeping Neeson and company enveloped.

When it’s time for Commuter to turn into a full action flick, the bass comes in. The train rolls overhead, rumbling and panning as the camera follows. People vividly fire guns, creating a plausible reverb in these confines. Finally, the showcase is a derailment, smashing through the speakers and hitting the LFE with force. The rumble is superb.

Extras

Two featurettes, 15-minutes combined, represent the ambivalence with how studios approach bonuses now. One is a plot/actor recap, the other a tepid, brief look at the filmmaking challenges. Neither offers substance.

  • Video (4K UHD)
  • Video (Blu-ray)
  • Audio
  • Extras
3

Movie

Liam Neeson does the Liam Neeson thing in The Commuter, a pedestrian thriller with enough energy to reach a satisfying conclusion.

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