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Non-Review Review: The Commuter

The Commuter is the best Neeson Season movie since The Grey and the best movie about the financial crisis since The Big Short.

On paper, The Commuter is a mildly interesting premise that feels very much of a piece with the typical January awards-fare counter-programming. It is very much a high-concept action film that feels populated from a mad lib. [Liam Neeson/Bruce Willis/Gerard Butler] is a [former cop/current cop/law enforcement official] who finds himself embroiled in a race against time to [protect/rescue/expose/defeat] a [loved one/conspiracy].

McCauley took the instruction not to fire the gun inside the carriage a little… literally.

The Commuter is very much of piece with Liam Neeson’s other collaborations with director Jaume Collet-Serra; Unknown, Non-Stop, Run All Night. It is a movie about a weary protagonist embroiled in a situation beyond his control, the perfect fodder for a midweek movie to be enjoyed with a bucket of pop corn and a soft drink of choice. However, what elevated The Commuter above these earlier collaborations is similar to what elevated Collet-Serra’s The Shallows above so many familiar shark movies.

The Commuter has the look and feel of a big dumb action movie, a film inviting the audience to engage on its own terms rather than theirs. However, there is a very knowing and self-aware quality to The Commuter, an understanding of what the audience expects of the film and what the film can expect from the audience in return. The result is a film that always feels smarter and better than it needs to be, very carefully calibrated; just serious enough to work, just self-aware enough to charm. The result is a delightfully enjoyable action film.

Dial “C” for Commuter.

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Non-Review Review: The Big Short

The Big Short manages the deft task of being clever while being light, of being thorough without being slow, of being self-aware and ironic while still being earnest.

The Big Short is a very delicate cocktail, a precisely-calibrated high-wire act that threatens to collapse at any moment like the banking system it so scathingly indicts. If the financial markets that spurred the crisis were built upon the illusion of knowledge and projection of confidence, it seems reasonable to wonder the same thing of Adam McKay’s wry dramedy. There are several stretches of the movie that seem too ridiculous to be true, only for characters to break the fourth wall and assure the audience as to the veracity of what is portrayed on-screen.

At the margins...

At the margins…

The Big Short is pulled in multiple directions at the same moment, constantly wary of being pulled too far in one direction or the other. The film balances very carefully, trying to find the middle-ground between “too light” and “too heavy” as it offers an introduction to (and whistle-stop tour of) the financial crisis. There is a sense that The Big Short might go too far in any given moment; that its portrayal of the bubble as farce might shatter the verisimilitude, or that the anger simmering beneath the surface might explode and burn up the screen.

However, the most remarkable thing about The Big Short is not how skilfully it tells its story, but how easy it makes all this look.

Just the Pitts...

Just the Pitts…

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Non-Review Review: The Other Guys

Have you ever watched Lethal Weapon and wondered what the cops in that precinct who aren’t Riggs and Murtagh get up to? Or watched Die Hard and wondered what John McClane’s deskmate might have been like? Well then, The Other Guys is the movie for you.

Top of the cops?

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