A better name for the new Liam Neeson movie "Non-Stop" would be "Mistakes on a Plane."
Despite a valiant effort by the cast, the script by John W. Richardson and Christopher Roach relies so heavily on people acting stupid, ignoring all logic and making absurd decisions that all it would have taken is one moment of common sense to ground the flight shortly after takeoff. No such moment comes and the film soars through a plot that grows to preposterous heights.
Neeson plays Bill Marks, a federal air marshal with more baggage than you can store in an overhead compartment. This is a case where his being an alcoholic is one of his better traits. Despite all of the problems he's had in his life, Marks continues to be put on flights to guard the safety of passengers.
His latest flight goes bad when he gets a text message from a mysterious typer who threatens to kill someone on the plane every 20 minutes unless $150 million in ransom is paid. This is where the film takes a nose-dive.
It's obvious that whoever sent the message is smart enough to have identified the air marshal on the plane, tracked down his phone number and set up an elaborate scheme to get the money. In the super sensitive world of security that we live in, such a threat would be taken seriously. But everyone here, except Marks, sees this as some silly practical joke and the flight continues.
There's even a suggestion to ignore the problem until something happens — like someone getting killed. Customer service isn't No. 1 with this airline.
Neeson does his best to give the story some life. But he's played this character much better in movies like "Taken," so even at his best the performance comes across like a weak copy. And the usually consistent Julianne Moore turns in a performance that's just a little too flaky to make her role in this mid-air drama seem viable.
No matter how good the acting, the absurdities that stack up to keep the film moving ahead finally become too much. These gaffes are so noticeable because director Jaume Collet-Serra never creates the claustrophobic feel needed to elevate the tension.
Toss in a handful of stereotypes, from a tough New York cop to the Middle Eastern passenger who everyone mistrusts, and the movie fails to find any semblance of originality. Correct that. One of the deaths on the plane is accomplished in such an outlandish manner that it looks like a sequence from the comedy "Airplane."
All of these mid-air maladies come together to make "Non-Stop" live up to its name in an unfortunate way — the mistakes are non-stop.
"Non-Stop," rated PG-13 for violence, drug reference, language. Stars Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Corey Stoll. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Running time: 110 minutes. Grade: C-
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, firstname.lastname@example.org or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.