Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

March 6, 2014

'Non-Stop' is a non-starter

By Rob Cox
Daily News

---- — Ever since 2008’s “Taken” I’ve been a sucker for Liam Neeson action movies.

By some accounts, that 2008 actioner largely redefined Neeson’s career, adding an unexpected layer to his reputation as a serious, Academy Award-nominated actor.

“Taken” certainly wasn’t the stuff of art-house cinema, mind you, but a bit of fun, popcorn cinematic fluff to which Neeson added authority and gravitas, helping turn an otherwise mediocre film into a thoroughly enjoyable affair.

So, as with Neeson’s other action flicks since “Taken,” I was pulled into “Non-Stop,” anticipating the kind of rip-roaring good time I’ve come to expect from Neeson the action star.

To be clear, “Non-Stop” DOES deliver on some of that promise, with Neeson delivering the goods as Bill Marks, an alcoholic US Federal Air Marshall haunted by the death of his eight-year-old daughter and the subsequent dissolution of his marriage. As interpreted by Neeson, Marks is a relatable-enough guy, although he’s an undeniable cinematic cliché: the haunted, flawed everyman hero who also happens to be a serious butt-kicker.

Oddly enough, Marks isn’t a fan of flying – especially of takeoffs – but fortunately he’s got passenger Jen Summers (Julianne Moore) in the seat beside him to help soothe his nerves. When an anonymous sender starts transmitting threatening text messages to Marks’ smartphone, over a Federally-secured and encrypted network, it’s not long before Marks can find comfort nowhere aboard his filled-to-capacity transatlantic flight from the United States to England.

The anonymous texter, you see, threatens to kill one passenger every 20 minutes unless Marks arranges for $150 million to be deposited into a pre-arranged bank account. Through a series of twists, the unknown sender starts making good on that threat, with one passenger after another dropping on schedule.

The race is on and by that point, when Marks doesn’t know whom to trust and can’t quite rule anyone out as a suspect, “Non-Stop” had managed to thoroughly involve me in the story.

Then came the final act.

As I mentioned above, no one approaches a film like this expecting a deeply-moving art-house experience or an Academy Award nominee. Still, it’s by no means unreasonable to expect ANY film to maintain a certain degree of coherence, plausibility and conformity to its own rules.

“Non-Stop’s” final act offers none of that and instead sees the story take a nosedive in logic that’s as pronounced and jolting as a jumbo-jet taking a tailspin into the Atlantic Ocean.

Who is the mysterious texter? How has he/she managed to set all this up and execute his/her plan so effectively? Who can Marks trust? Who will be next on the kill list?

Who cares?

The answers to “Non-Stop’s” mysteries are utterly implausible, thoroughly without logic or believability. In fact, if this resolution is the best screenwriters John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach and Ryan Engle could deliver, I would’ve been better off leaving before the final act – and so would you.

Or better yet, skip “Non-Stop’s” theatrical run and wait for its inevitable crash-landing onto video, Netflix and cable TV.

Rating: Yip

Score: 55/100

Runtime: 106 minutes

Rated PG-13 for violence and language

Rating System Explained: Rabies = 0; Yip = *; Bark = **; Howl = ***; Lone-wolf howl = ****; Leader of the pack = *****

Contact: Rob Cox 812-663-3111 x7011; robert.cox@greensburgdailynews.com