PLOT:An air marshal (Liam Neeson) on a routine flight gets a mysterious series of texts warning him that unless $150 million is transferred into a special account, every twenty minutes a passenger will be killed. Meanwhile, his bosses on the ground think he's the one trying to hijack the plane, as the account he's supplied them with is in his name.
REVIEW:Mid to late winter is usually a pretty good time for a Liam Neeson actioner. Ever since TAKEN became a blockbuster in the winter of 2009 this has been his sweet spot. Outside the occasional exception like THE GREY, Neeson's winter-thrillers tend to be b-level, PG-13 action programmers centred around a relatively simple concept. Sure, we've seen Neeson try to find his kidnapped daughter (twice), fight wolves, and lose his memory (UNKNOWN) but ah, crazy as it may seem we've never seen him thwart an airplane hijacking.
Luckily, that's being remedied with NON-STOP, with him joining the ranks of Wesley Snipes (PASSENGER 57), Kurt Russell (EXECUTIVE DECISION) and Jodie Foster (FLIGHT PLAN) as the type of passenger you want with you on that international flight. Coming from Jaume Collet-Serra – who not only directed Neeson in UNKNOWN, but has already wrapped another actioner with him , RUN ALL NIGHT, which is due out next February – NON-STOP is the usual efficient programmer. Neeson's pretty much a 21st century Charles Bronson at this point (which would have seemed unlikely a decade ago), but people love watching him pummel guys half his age. The thing that's great about Neeson is that even at sixty-one, he still looks tough, and moves well. NON-STOP is probably the ideal vehicle for an older action hero such as himself, in that he doesn't have to run around too much or pull off impossible stunts. By necessity, all the hand-to-hand scraps are done in close quarters, and as a result the fights are more convincing than the bigger brawls in some of his other recent action flicks.
While Neeson's never going to get the critical raves he gets for his more serious roles for his action films, he makes for a good, likable lead. People flock to see his movies because they like him, and he delivers his usual, capable performance. Even if the movie is just b-level you can be sure his acting is not. While some of the plotting is cliché, with him being introduced chugging a glass of whisky while looking at a photo of his daughter (see – he's troubled!) or downright clumsy (he's an air marshal but he's afraid to fly?) this corniness gives NON-STOP a somewhat endearing quality in that it's so simple.
While UNKNOWN was pretty draggy, here Collet-Serra jumps right into the action, with no more than twenty minutes having gone by before Neeson's first scrap, an impressively staged fight in the plane's commode. While the constant on-screen texting gets a bit tiresome, to the movie's credit the identity of the culprit or culprits is never too obvious, and while it's far from Hitchcockian it never ceases to entertain.
One of NON-STOP's strengths is the cast, with all of the supporting players being big enough character actors that any one of them could be the baddie. Is it Julianne Moore as the flirty gal sharing Neeson's aisle? DOWNTON ABBEY's Michelle Dockery as the helpful flight attendant? Corey Stoll as the loud-mouth NYC cop? Nate Parker? Scoot McNairy? The only downside to this is that when the baddie is finally revealed (with the motives behind the hijacking being predictably lame), the other names in the cast are left with relatively little to do. As a result, this is squarely Neeson's show, with him never being off-screen for more than a second or two.
Through it all, NON-STOP moves along at a fast-pace, and while it's often goofy – especially in the big action climax featuring the money shot from the trailers where Neeson flies through the air guns blazing – it's always fun. This is a real check-your-brain-at-the-door kind of movie, but as long as you can accept it on that level you should have a pretty good time. While it would probably work just as well on Netflix or Blu-ray, it's a decent 100 minutes of entertainment, and Neeson's (many) fans will no doubt be satisfied.
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|Extra Tidbit:||I know these guys will love it.|