February goes out with a bang thanks to what has turned into an annual event: the Liam Neeson Is Going To Kill You movie. Kevin Costner can keep all of 3 Days to Kill’s warmly comedic father/daughter bike-riding tutorial sequences for himself, because in the world of the action film, family warmth is an outcome but never the focus. If anything it’s the sprinkles on top of the icing on top of the brutality cake, the state of well-being the hero comes home to after identifying, tracking, positioning and neutralizing miscreants. Any more than that is an unwelcome distraction. And there are no distractions in a Liam Neeson Is Going To Kill You movie. If you are a kidnapper, hijacker, terrorist, sex trafficker or murderer, you are going to be killed by Liam Neeson (exception: you are a wolf). This Liam Neeson Is Going To Kill You movie is on a plane.
Everything you’re allowed to know: Neeson plays a troubled Air Marshall on a transatlantic flight and he must find the person on board who keeps making good on a threat to murder a passenger every 20 minutes until $150 million dollars is deposited into a Swiss bank account. One more thing you’re allowed to know: the terrorist is also diabolically skilled at making Neeson look like the bad guy.
Everything else is what you’re not allowed to know. All the whys and hows and whos get doled out selectively and precisely, each bit of information piling up into a goofy, preposterous heap of plotting. The tightly enclosed space allows the audience to witness only a little more than Neeson himself can see, and most of that consists of a series of suspicious, sidelong glances from passengers and crew, any one of whom could be pulling the digital strings of a crime being announced via texts to Neeson’s phone. It’s a cast full of red herring character actors: the jittery flight attendant (Michelle Dockery), the other Air Marshall (Anson Mount), the hot-tempered cop (Corey Stoll), the chatty tourist (Scoot McNairy), the overly nice lady with the mysterious scar (Julianne Moore), the rude business traveler (Nate Parker), the British doctor (Omar Netwally) or the shifty co-pilot (Jason Butler Harner). Or maybe it’s the pilot himself (Linus Roache) or that last minute fill-in air hostess (Lupita Nyong’o). The only person completely rule-outable is the child (Quinn McColgan) and you’d be forgiven for having doubts about her.
Convenience and coincidence collide way too often here, as does the laughably improbable nature of the evildoer’s scheme when it butts up against fairly well-documented information about the nature of commercial airliners in distress. But theater seat bloodlust doesn’t care; it hungers for thrills and vengeance dispensed in equal measure and here is where that hunger is happily, crazily sated. Besides, this is not the real world or even an approximation of it; it’s a universe governed by physical laws that allow for a sixtysomething badass to defy turbulence while catching, aiming and successfully firing a loaded gun as it floats through the air* (*in the trailer, fair game). It’s Planet Neeson and he is the enforcer of its own version of reality. And if you don’t like it then Liam Neeson is going to kill you.