Non-Stop: Another Neeson’s Trashy Thriller?

Over the past decade or so, the gifted, Oscar nominated Liam Neeson has become the reliable star of Euro trash actioners, fast-paced, sporadically entertaining flicks that keep him busy with (hopefully) nice pay checks to match.

Neeson’s latest effort, “Non-Stop,” is actually an accurate title to describe this breezy, often silly thriller, produced by Joel Silver.  The fact that the picture first open in Europe and Australia indicates the importance of foreign markets for such junky movies, which don’t require much acting.

“Non-Stop” is the kind of superficial and predictable fare that could be easily described by other titles, say “Unknown on an Airplane,” or “Speed Meets Taken” (to borrow one of Neeson’s titels).

Though the feature is far from being plausible even by standards of Hollywood’s thrillers-actioners, “Non-Stop” is not entirely mindless, and in the hands of a more skillful writer, it could have been a more grounded film since its semi-Hitchcockian premise is not bad.

Once again Neeson plays a man with an identity crisis, or a man mistaken for someone he is not, trying to concern all around him that he is indeed a federal air marshal trying to capture a hijacker, rather than the ruthless hijacker people assume him to be.

The scenario is credited to John W. Richardson, Chris Roach and Ryan Engle, inexperienced scribes, who must have watched (and copied from) a lot of previous actioners, including the Jody Foster 2005 vehicle, “Flightplan,” directed by Neil Jordan.

The tale’s “big” question is who is behind the nasty scheme, who is trying to frame Bill Marks and for what reason?

When the plot begins, on a rainy day, Marks is in his car outside JFK Airport, drinking!  Director Collet-Serra then introduces a colorful gallery of passengers, including career femme (Julianne Moore), a New York cop (Corey Stoll), and a slacker (Scoot McNairy).

As is the norm (cliché?) of the genre, there must be one character that’s is Muslim or Arab, and here it is a doctor (Omar Metwally), as if waiting to be discriminated against through racial profiling so that he can indicate his status and credentials.

As soon as the flight takes off, Marks is beginning to get anonymous text messages, warning about a killing on board in 20 minutes intervals—unless a huge amount of money is transferred into a bank account.

At first, the crew whose members of British Aqualantic 767 (heading to London), which include captain Linus Roache, co-pilot Jason Butler Harner, and flight attendants Michelle Dockery and Lupita Nyong’o, dismiss the messages as a hoax.  And you cannot blame them for that.

After the first reel, the twists and turns of the plot become so improbable that you have two choices, either to resist what you see and dismiss it as cheesy junk, or succumb to the proceedings and try to make the most of the remaining running time.

Once upon a time, around “Schindler’s List” in 1993, Neeson was one of the most serious-minded and accomplished actors of his generation.  I can only guess what has motivated him over the past 10 years in choosing second and third-tier star vehicles.