‘Non Stop’ Seriously Flawed; ‘The Bagman’ Offers Simple Plan Gone Wrong


non stop



Movie Info

Global action star Liam Neeson stars in NON-STOP, a suspense thriller played out at 40,000 feet in the air. During a transatlantic flight from New York City to London, U.S. Air Marshal Bill Marks (Neeson) receives a series of cryptic text messages demanding that he instruct the government to transfer $150 million into an off-shore account. Until he secures the money, a passenger on his flight will be killed every 20 minutes. NON-STOP, which reunites Neeson with UNKNOWN director Jaume Collet-Serra and producer Joel Silver, co-stars Golden Globe Award winner Julianne Moore and will be released by Universal Pictures on February 28, 2014. The StudioCanal production is also produced by Andrew Rona and Steve Richards.

PG-13, 1 hr. 50 min.

Mystery & Suspense, Action & Adventure


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Aboard a transatlantic flight, an air marshal (Neeson) is taunted by a villain bent on murder and mayhem. He will look for them, he will find them and he will kill them.

The fact that Liam Neeson has become an action-flick staple is fairly amazing, given the fact he’s rarely broken into a jog on screen, let alone delivered a spinning wushu attack. But where Taken at least gave him some hard-boiled one-liners as compensation, the sub-Hitchcockian, stunt-sparse Non-Stop (rarely has a film title been so inaccurate) makes it impossible for even the stolid Neeson to quicken pulses.

An undercover air marshal by the name of Bill Marks — presumably Mark Bills was already taken — he’s introduced sitting in a parked car outside an airport, sipping whisky. “I hate flying,” he growls. “The lines. The crowds. The delays.” Two hours later, you’ll likely be sharing his aviophobia. A well-made thriller can squeeze plenty of suspense-juice out of a single, claustrophobic location. A shonky one can fast become interminable. Almost entirely set aboard an “Aqualantic” jet, Non-Stop is scuppered by its assortment of deeply dull characters — including a jockish NYPD cop (Corey Stoll), a nervous flier (Julianne Moore) and a stewardess (12 Years A Slave’s Lupita Nyong’o, here stuck with 12 Words A Role) — plus the fact that, as a whodunnit, it’s fatally flawed.

In lieu of interrogations, chases and the like, the vast majority of the film is comprised of Neeson tapping text messages into a mobile phone, as he’s taunted by a shadowy adversary. Occasionally the texting happens in a toilet; sometimes there’s a typo and he has to tap back and fix it. None of this makes the endless SMS-ing any more exciting. To make matters worse, the shrill alert noise the hero’s phone makes EVERY TIME he gets a message becomes so maddening that it soon becomes tempting to root for the killer instead.

French director Jaume Collet-Serra, who made the impressive Orphan but also House Of Wax and rubbish Neeson vehicle Unknown, tries to inject energy with a fist-fight and a last-minute splurge of CGI. But Non-Stop is weak sauce, a cheapie snoozer that not even heavyweights like Neeson and Moore can save. And the solution to the mystery, when it finally comes, is so dotty and unguessable, it might drive you to whisky yourself.

Verdict This movie’s title, translated from the director’s native language, means “No, stop.” Which is apt.


the bagman



Movie Info

THE BAG MAN is a taut crime thriller that follows the story of JACK (John Cusack), a tough guy with chronic bad luck but human touches. Hired by DRAGNA (Robert De Niro), a legendary crime boss to complete a simple but unusual task, the plot centers around the anticipated arrival of Dragna who has summoned JACK and a host of shady characters to a remote location for unknown reasons. Over the course of a long and violently eventful night awaiting Dragna’s arrival, Jack’s path crosses that of RIVKA (Rebecca Da Costa), a stunningly beautiful woman whose life becomes physically and emotionally entangled with Jack’s. When Dragna finally arrives on the scene there are sudden and extreme consequences for all.

R, 1 hr. 48 min.


The Bag Man


The Bag Man is driven by the everlasting plot of the supposedly simple plan gone loco. Jack (John Cusack) is the criminal of the title, hired by an everyday lord of unimaginably vast import, Dragna (a surprisingly game and funny Robert De Niro), to pick up a mysterious bag and hole up in a motel until the latter can arrive to collect the goods and reward the former with lots of cash. One of Dragna’s goons soon betrays Jack, though, destroying his cell phone in the process, while the rendezvous point is revealed to be one of those dusty, neon-lit backwoods netherworlds, untouched by modern conveniences such as the Internet, or soap, that only exist in pulp magazines or movies that usually climax with a chainsaw massacre.

This well-paced and initially amusing film is so rife with moldy contrivances that you’re primed to expect a meta twist that reveals all of Jack’s troubles to be the imaginary ravings of a deranged inmate or a desperate screenwriter—a suspicion that’s magnified by the motel’s resemblance to the dark and stormy setting of Identity, which also featured Cusack, and which also hinged on a similar creatively ass-covering conclusion. That suspicion is confirmed, to a degree, as there’s an explanation that self-consciously ties all of the absurdities together in a manner that suggests, among other things, that the resemblance Dragna vocally bears to the satanic character that De Niro played in Angel Heart is no mere accident of a prolific legendary actor’s repetition. But this revelation dramatically misfires, needlessly accentuating an already unseemly sexist ugliness.

The Bag Man is revealed to be a shaggy-dog story that appears to be intended as a parody of the female objectification that’s normally taken for granted in such predominantly male-centric and gun-happy crime thrillers. Rivka (Rebecca Da Costa) is the obligatory woman who must show Jack the errors of his untrusting selfish ways, but not before she’s paraded around in tight outfits and nearly stripped and beaten and threatened with rape in sequences that disrupt the film’s otherwise competent dark comedic tone. (Spoilers herein.) The Bag Man eventually excuses these indulgences, though, by revealing Rivka to be a co-conspirator of Dragna’s who’s advised, in advance, of the scenarios she will have to stage for Jack’s benefit in order to test his “softness.” This premise might make sense, if only hypocritically (after all, director David Grovic has already offered us the “woman in peril” for our delectation, no matter how she’s retroactively contextualized), but the film abandons this already flimsy parody of macho pride disastrously at the last minute.

The Bag Man should logically end with Jack getting fleeced by Rivka, as he’s fallen for the kind of absurd ruse, ostensibly of the endangered hooker with “the heart of gold,” that films often peddle with a straight face and that men happily buy into both inside and outside of the theater. But Jack’s naïveté is rewarded along with the audience’s when Rivka is conveniently revealed in yet another reversal to be exactly the kind of yielding ultra-hot male fantasy that the film was supposedly parodying, thus rendering all of the complicated identity postulations entirely pointless. It might have occurred to a sincere director that a meaningful refutation of sexist noir clichés might have actually given Rivka something to do apart from operating as the sexiest of all girl Fridays.


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