Critics' Corner: Non-Stop

Since 2008's "Taken", Liam Neeson has stepped into the role of action hero numerous times and has done them well. The movies haven't always been anything to write home about, but something tells me that much of what Neeson has been doing has been keeping busy in the aftermath of the sudden death of his wife Natasha Richardson. He went from doing one or two movies a year, to doing 4 to 7 movies a year following her passing.

With the exception of the original "Taken" and "The Dark Knight Rises", Neeson's movies have failed to crack that threshold of mediocrity. The last time he ventured into the lone action hero genre with the terrible and capitalizing "Taken 2", I figured it would be a while before he went there again. I was wrong. He's gone there again. He's not Bryan Mills from "Taken", but Bill Marks, a washed up, slightly alcoholic air marshal with a bit of a mysterious past. He, according to the talk radio show he listens to before boarding the flight in the movie, has the easiest job in the federal government. Nothing ever happens on these flights; well, if that were the case, we wouldn't have a movie.

"Non-Stop" is a mystery-action movie with an audience who has seen it all in mind. You know if you paid the price of admission that something bad is going to happen so the director throws numerous familiar faces at you to throw you off the scent. Usually, in most whodunnit's, when you see that 'actor' that you recognize, you know it's them and you're probably right. This time, the director, Jaume Collet-Serra, uses all kinds of people like Julianne Moore (the most recognizable), Scoot McNairy from "Argo" and dozens of other recent movies, Michelle Dockery from "Downtown Abbey", Nate Parker from "Red Tails", that guy from "House of Cards" who has the drug problem (Corey Stull), Lupita Nyong'o who just won an Oscar for "12 Years a Slave", Jason Butler Harner who you've seen in many many things, Linus Roach and Anson Mount. Therefore, the 'I've seen it all' moviegoer can't possibly guess by face recognition alone.

This is one of the things that "Non-Stop" does incredibly right. Although the novelty of the movie may just be its selling point and downfall as well. Soon after takeoff, the tension begins and everything from beginning to end happens inside the plane. The action is swift, the tension is relentless, the intrigue is well done and as I stated before, guessing who's behind the shenanigans is more difficult than most movies. All that being said, being confined to a plane and with so much going on, some of the incidents border on the implausible or even worse the ridiculous or coincidental.

"Non-Stop" does manage to at least splinter the mediocrity threshold but not by much. It is an effective and well performed action movie as long as you leave your critical eye in the lobby. I miss the good old fashion red-blooded blue collar action movies. Hollywood doesn't make enough of them these days. In that sense, "Non-Stop" is a novelty act. Unfortunately though, its conclusion was less skillfully constructed than its build up and that kept the movie, as a whole, grounded.