Non-Stop screened after WW press deadlines, presumably because Liam Neeson was too busy having slugfests in airplane lavatories.
Critic's Grade: B
It's been about six years since Liam Neeson stopped campaigning for golden statues of bald men and started slugging bald foreign men with gold teeth, and Non-Stop marks the eighth film in which the classical actor turned rugged elder statesman of action has been cast as a man who is really, really good at slugging people in the neck. It's also Neeson's most colossally stupid film of his latter-day crusade against other men's throats. And as such, Non-Stop is entertaining as all hell.
Neeson stars as air marshal Bill Marks, an alcoholic with a dead daughter who, a few drinks into his day, boards a flight that's doomed for a fate only flights containing Liam Neeson can experience. He gets a text from an unknown number saying that, every 20 minutes, a passenger will be killed unless the hijacker receives $150 million.
Immediately scanning the passengers of the colossal aircraft, the audience is treated to a hundred red herrings: Could the bad guy be the Muslim dude in the turban? Too obvious. Could it be the vaguely Eastern European bald dude shown in extreme close-up whenever shit starts to go down? Neeson's punched a dozen throats just like his, so it's not too far-fetched. Could it be Julianne Moore, who butters up to Marks immediately and displays a lot of suspicious behavior? She's a little too nice. Maybe it's the little girl who reminds Marks of his dead daughter? That would explain how the terrorist is able to send text messages so quickly.
Oh, that's right…most of the back-and-forth takes place via text messaging, and whenever Neeson (who texts at a rate that would make most 14-year-old girls seem slow) gets a new message, it pops up onscreen like a cartoon thought bubble.
Why this experienced air marshal and former cop can't just turn out the fucking lights and look for the glow of a cell phone in the crowd is a mystery that would be far more interesting than the big reveal of the villain, but that wouldn't allow Neeson to use his particular set of skills—which do manage to involve some pretty awesome slugfests, including one in a bathroom. Because every action movie now needs to have a bathroom fight. It's part of the SAG code.
All of the above sounds pretty stupid, but it's nowhere near as stupid as the movie itself. And yet director Jaume Collet-Serra—who directed Neeson's fists in Unknown and helmed the awesomely stupid Orphan—has some slick tricks up his sleeve. You may roll your eyes at the cardboard caricature performances, but those eyes will pop at a nifty shot that pans from the interior of the plane to the exterior, over the wing and then back into the rear. I missed half of the villain's explanation about his evil plot because I was laughing so hard, and my sides hurt during a climactic scene in which a little girl is almost sucked out of the airplane. It's so over-the-top, it seems like parody.
Which is to say, Non-Stop is entertaining as hell. So much more so than the Taken series, which are nothing more than xenophobic travelogues that mistake mean-spiritedness for suspense and self-seriousness for boldness. Neeson grumbles his way through Non-Stop like a grumpy grandfather who'd rather be watching his stories than punching people in the throats. The actor knows how ridiculous this shit is, and so does his director. This is trash cinema taken to wonderfully dumb heights.