Is it even worth referring to certain action movies as "Die Hard on a such-and-such" anymore?

At this point, it seems like Hollywood has exhausted all the possible locations where a lone hero can play a cat-and-mouse game with hordes of foreign enemies. There's been Die Hard in the White House (White House Down), on a battleship (Under Siege), on a bus (Speed), even at the Stanley Cup Finals (Sudden Death, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme -- don't ask).

Non-Stop doesn't try to be much more than another "Die Hard on a plane" film. It's worse than Air Force One, cleverer than Passenger 57 and somehow sillier than Con Air.

But it still may make you never want to get on a plane again.

Federal air marshals exist, though you're not really supposed to know it, since people will never fully trust the presence of an armed man on a plane. Liam Neeson's Bill Marks is a haggard monument of confident incompetence who smells like booze from the moment he gets on the job. So, like a real-life air marshal probably is.

When he gets a text on his secure channel from someone who claims he/she will kill a person on the plane every 20 minutes until he/she receives $150 million, Marks reacts by waving his gun around, ordering strip searches, and throwing random passengers against the wall. It's safe to say his crisis management skills aren't the sharpest.


Who's behind this Agatha Christie-an plot? There are so many suspiciously familiar faces, from flight attendants played by Downton Abbey's Michelle Dockery and 12 Years A Slave's Lupita Nyong'o to a brash NYC cop played by House of Cards' Corey Stoll. Most recognizable is Marks' jittery seat mate Jen (Julianne Moore), whom he calls "the only person (he) can trust)" until he, well, can't.

The genius of this often-ridiculous movie (the third act defies even the most outlandish realms of action movie believability) is how Marks' behavior paints him more and more as a crazed hijacker instead of a hero. In Die Hard, John McClane starts off as a rogue trusted by one man and slowly becomes an accepted ally of the police force. In Non-Stop, it's the opposite, as the news stations on the in-flight televisions reveal by villainizing Marks later in the movie. (Why do the passengers not turn these TVs on until then? Who knows.)

Of course, the final explanation isn't that satisfying and feels sort of tacked on in the aftermath. Nothing really makes sense. But this flight is a fun, wild ride -- and it's still cool to see Neeson beat a guy up in an airport bathroom.

Grade: B

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references.

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