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Tuesday, September 02, 2014, 9:08 a.m.
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REVIEW

Non-Stop

By DAN LYBARGER SPECIAL TO THE DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE

This article was published February 28, 2014 at 2:16 a.m.

air-marshal-bill-marks-liam-neeson-has-a-particular-set-of-skills-in-the-airborne-thriller-non-stop

Air Marshal Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) has a particular set of skills in the airborne thriller Non-Stop.

While Liam Neeson may be carrying this airborne thriller on his broad shoulders, he can’t do much to prevent Non-Stop from being a nonstarter. Neeson and his booming Irish baritone are stuck with a script that’s loaded with more red herrings than a fish processing plant. By the time the audience figures out who is trying to undermine Neeson’s air marshal Bill Marks from keeping a flight safe, its less of a jolt than amild sense of turbulence.

Juame Collet-Serra, who last helmed Neeson in the forgettable and forgotten Unknown, might have been able to make this film work if he hadn’t laid on the gloom and the plot twists so heavily. Bill is possibly the last person the TSA should be sending out to defend a flight because he’s an alcoholic with a habit of feeding his nicotine fix in airline lavatories.

If getting through a flight weren’t a challenge in itself, an unknown terrorist sends Bill texts telling him that if the airline doesn’t wire money to a numbered account, a passenger will die every 20 minutes. With the plane barreling over the Atlantic Ocean, it can’t land, and there’s a surplus of shady characters who could be tormenting Bill with homicidal phone spam.

Having destroyed the Paris underworld in Taken and having trained Batman and Obiwan Kenobi, it’s a safe bet that Neeson will go Jedi on this texting telemarketer. That actually kills the suspense. Neeson demonstrated more range and finesse playing a toy cop in The Lego Movie.

Collet-Serra and screenwriters John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach and Ryan Engle load the flight with so many shady characters that it feels like Collet-Serra is crying wolf every time a suspect turns out not to be the one sending the texts.

Non-Stop is the latest offering from producer Joel Silver, who previously gave us the equally implausible but far more entertaining Executive Decision. That movie benefited from stronger (although offensively racist) villains and plot twists that genuinely surprised. Sadly, Silver can’t replicate the same excitement he did in the earlier film by killing off Steven Seagal. It’s been done before.

Non-Stop 74 Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Michelle Dockery, Nate Parker, Corey Stoll, Lupita Nyong’o, Omar Metwally, Jason Butler Harner, Linus Roache, Shea Whigham, Anson Mount Director: Jaume Collet-Serra Rating: PG-13, for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references Running time: 106 minutes

MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 02/28/2014

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