Why Does Liam Neeson Keep Making These Movies? Why did Willie Sutton rob banks?
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant to the Film: One Rex Kramer out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Federal air marshal Bill Marks has had it with these motherfucking text messages on this motherfucking plane.
Tagline: "The hijacking was just the beginning."
Better Tagline: "Because he can't, he won't and he don't stop."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Bill Marks (Neeson) is the Martin Riggs of air marshals. Burned out, alcoholic and possessing lethal hand-to-hand skills, all he wanted was to enjoy a quiet New York-to-London flight (and maybe surreptitiously ogle his sleeping seatmate, played by Julianne Moore). Unfortunately, someone on his flight is demanding $150 million via text message or he's going to kill a passenger every 20 minutes. To add insult to injury, the perpetrator is trying to frame Marks for the heist. Time for someone to...take out the [in-flight] trash.
"Critical" Analysis: I should start out by saying I have much love for Neeson. He's put together a lengthy career that runs the gamut from critical darlings (Schindler's List, Kinsey) to crowd pleasers (Taken, Love Actually) to crap (Battleship, Taken 2). He's also starred in one personal favorite, Sam Raimi's underrated Darkman, as well as a childhood guilty pleasure (*cough* Krull *cough*).
And as a father, I respect his desire to make the most of what's obviously been a late-blooming action career (he was 56 years old when he hit the jackpot with Taken), seeking financial security for his family following the death of wife Natasha Richardson in 2009. However, I can acknowledge the nobility of this goal and still give the man shit for appearing in, well, shit like Non-Stop.
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who paired with Neeson before on 2011's eminently forgettable Unknown, Non-Stop still should've been better given the acting talent assembled. We critic types can't help but gush over Neeson when he makes action movies because he's a Real Actor and not a Stallone/Schwarzenegger/Statham-style meathead. Collet-Serra raises the stakes even higher here, throwing in enough recognizable faces to throw off even the most devoted adherent of Roger Ebert's Law of Conservation of Star Power, with Moore, Linus Roache, Lupita Nyong'o and Scoot McNairy proving familiar and therefore suspicious.
The British flight attendant is also played by Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery, but I had to Google her because of course I've *never* watched that show. Heh.
But what starts as a moderately engaging, if familiar, exercise (like Airport '77) quickly deteriorates into farce (like The Concorde...Airport '79). For starters, Marks is quite possibly the worst air marshal of all time, needlessly panicking the passengers, hurling accusations like he was in a Clue re-enactment, and generally stumbling about "inadvertently" murdering people.
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Collet-Serra and his trio of rookie screenwriters (that's not entirely fair; one of them helped script WrestleMania 22) throw so many red herrings and dumb coincidences at us during the course of the film that when we finally get to the Big Surprise, we're past caring. The onslaught of stupid is the cinematic equivalent of Egyptian embalmers methodically removing your brain piece by piece through your nose. And to top it off, the villain reveals their motivations in a monologue that's half Syndrome from The Incredibles, half Trevelyan going on and on about his upbringing in Goldeneye.
Neeson will earn $20 million for the upcoming Taken 3 ("Mis-Taken?"), and a reported $50 million on back-end deals for Non-Stop. Speaking as a parent whose savings account would take millennia to even approach those numbers, enough is enough.
Incidentally, I understand "Enough Is Enough" will be the subtitle of Taken 3.
Non-Stop is in theaters today. For the record, Sutton never actually said that.