Liam Neeson has found a niche with leading roles in solid, workmanlike thrillers. There’s the usual non-stop action in, erm, NON-STOP (12: Studio Canal) in which he’s a veteran air marshal on a flight from New York to London.
He suddenly receives a text message telling him a passenger will die every 20 minutes unless $150million is transferred to a secret account.
Tasked with finding the killer among his 200 fellow passengers, and helped by frequent flyer Julianne Moore and plucky flight attendant Michelle Dockery, Neeson plays a cat-and-mouse game above the Atlantic while trying to keep the body count to a minimum. But his investigation is threatened when he’s framed as being the mastermind behind the plot.
The premise is intriguing and some claustrophobic thrills are delivered, but the film struggles to sustain momentum. It’s not Neeson’s most convincing action-hero performance and he’s not helped by a script that lays on the hammy dialogue a little too thick and stretches credulity to breaking point.
> More undemanding action entertainment is provided by RIDE ALONG (12: Universal), a routine buddy cop caper that offers some cheap laughs. Ben Barber, played by stand-up comic Kevin Hart, is a wimpish high school security guard and wannabe police detective.
His other ambition is to marry Angela (Tika Sumpter), but first he has to get the blessing of her brother James (Ice Cube), a hardcase Atlanta cop.
James insists that Ben ride along with him on a nightmare shift where their main focus is hunting down a vicious criminal (Laurence Fishburne). James also contrives to throw Ben into other hairy situations to break his spirit.
Fairly obvious slapstick action ensues, often with violence as a substitute for a decent punch-line.
Ride Along is efficient rather than inspired and although watchable enough, it’s unlikely to make a big impression.
> The publicity blurb for THE PRETTY ONE (15: Sony)describes it as “a coming-of-age comedy about identity and loss and a wallflower who finally learns how to break out of her shell”. Now where have I heard all that before?
In a balancing act of a performance, Zoe Kazan portrays twins Laurel and Audrey, most poignantly as a relationship blooms with her new neighbor (Jake Johnson).
As Laurel begins to slip into the life she has always wanted, but never thought was possible, she must decide between continuing her life as Audrey and revealing herself as the perfect fraud.
> Elliot (Mark Webber) is a bright, yet meek, social services worker drowning in debt and desperate because he’s about to marry the love of his life in 13 SINS (15: Entertainment One).
Upon receiving a cryptic phone call informing him that he’s on a hidden camera game show where hje must execute 13 tasks, he learns he will be on his way to winning a multimillion dollar cash prize if he quickly follows through with his first two instructions – swat the fly that is currently bothering him and then eat the fly.
Although thousands of dollars are suddenly appearing in his bank account, Elliot remains suspicious, yet comforted by the knowledge that he can stop playing at any time if only to lose every penny that he’s won.
As he leaves a path of destruction behind him and runs away from the law (Ron Perlman), Elliot’s need to complete the game escalates as the tasks grow increasingly sinister, to a devastating point of no return.