Liam Neeson’s ‘Non-Stop’ should have never taken flight

Liam Neeson stars in "Non-Stop."
March 9, 2014

In action films, fans of the genre are always willing to suspend disbelief in exchange for a thrill or two. We can accept a madman who straps a bomb to a bus that will blow up if it goes under 60 mph; we'll allow for a Russian mob thwarted singlehandedly by an off-duty beat cop. Hell, we apparently will even buy that two members of Liam Neeson's family would be  taken on two separate occasions.

But more often than not, they require leaps of logic that cause the whole film to collapse in on its own foundation of ludicrousness. With "Non-Stop," it takes a rather familiar setup - room full of suspects (this time on an overseas flight), a killer on board, a ransom demanded - then the story essentially straps logic to a parachute and tosses it out the emergency exit in midair.

By the time the film touches down on the tarmac, we are left with 747-sized gaps and questions about characters, twists, motives, and why the hell two fine actors like Neeson and Julianne Moore would even sign on for such a disastrous transatlantic time-waster.

Neeson plays nails-tough U.S. Air Marshal Bill Marks, whose flight no sooner leaves its New York runway to London than he gets a text saying a person will be killed on the flight every 20 minutes if a $150 million payment is not made to a particular bank account.

Though we don’t immediately know the source of the texts, there is certainly no shortage of cliched characters from which to choose, including Marks himself, which the film flirts with for a short time, then drops.

And while the first killing that takes place is quite interesting, each subsequent turn spirals the film further and further from any semblance of reality or plausibility. It unhinges in ways that are not only frustrating, but are also under the mistaken assumption that they are more intelligent than they truly are.

Director Jaume Collet-Serro is no stranger to taking things to extremes, as he did with the evil-prostitute-dwarf-masquerading-as-a-child thriller “Orphan,” but even that premise seems grounded in reality next to “Non-Stop.”

It’s a puzzle as to why Neeson chose this to further flex his part-time job as an action hero, as I can only assume there is no shortage of films that perhaps Jason Statham may have passed on that he could certainly pick up and run with. But there is really no reason for Moore to be motivated to join in this thankless role. Maybe she got free miles out of the deal.

There is absolutely no reason for “Non-Stop” to exist in theaters, and it should have remained as some direct-to-video fodder starring Wesley Snipes, Cuba Gooding Jr. or Val Kilmer (or why not all of them?).

Better yet, it should have never taken flight in the first place.

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