Run All Night is the latest Liam Neeson action thriller starring Liam Neeson doing Liam Neeson things. To say the man has carved out a niche for himself in the last decade is an understatement. Does Run All Night feature anything new or interesting from the other similar, recent Neeson filmography? Given that Ed Harris and promising young actor Joel Kinnaman are involved, there is just enough going on here to recommend this movie, even if it doesn’t do much to distinguish itself from his similar films.
The film unfolds over the course of 16 hours in New York City, as Neeson’s Jimmy Conlon, a former mob hitman responsible for countless deaths, finds himself at odd with his best friend Shawn Maguire (Harris), a former crime boss turned legitimate businessman, after Jimmy’s estranged son Mike (Kinnaman) sees Shawn’s son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) murder two Eastern Europeans mobsters in cold blood. Danny attempts to kill Mike, Danny ends up dead, forcing Shawn to go after Jimmy and Mike with everything at his disposal. Jimmy and Mike have to try to survive the night while evading the gangsters, crooked cops, straight cops, and hitman (Common) in pursuit of them.
Run All Night is a good father/son story set in a generic action thriller. Neeson’s Jimmy is an alcoholic who needs to borrow $800 from Danny just to get his heater fixed to have heat in his house. In return, Danny makes him play Santa at his family Christmas party. Here we learn that Jimmy is haunted by his past as a hitman for Shawn back in the day. While Mike blames Jimmy for disappearing from his life, we later learn that Jimmy removed himself from Mike’s life and left Mike’s mom because he couldn’t bring what he did back to his family.
The film juxtaposes Jimmy and Shawn throughout the film as two friends who share a bond forged by growing up together, war, and getting their hands dirty in the streets and the contrasts in relationships they both have with their sons. Jimmy is estranged from his son. Mike drives a limo and works at a boxing gym helping young kids and is raising a daughter with his wife Gabriela (Genesis Rodriguez). He also wants nothing to do with his father, forging a life on his own. Danny, on the other hand, borrows a large sum of money from Russian mobsters and then kills them rather than have to pay them back after their proposed deal turns sour. Shawn exposed Danny to the world he was involved in and handed him the keys to his kingdom and Danny ended up dead. Jimmy protected his son from what he did as best he could and he turns out ok. And Jimmy spends the entire movie continuing to protect Mike from that life, several times urging him not to pull the trigger because of the road it leads you down.
There’s a basic level of competence in the storytelling here, but it throws in quite a few unnecessary camera tricks jumping around the city in a Google Maps fashion that seems unnecessary. The action here is good, but far from the best I’ve ever seen in a Liam Neeson action flick. There are quite a few implausiblities in the script, in particular how Jimmy and Mike manage to evade an entire fleet of cops that have surrounded them in an apartment complex that is on fire. Ed Harris feels slightly wasted, and Bruce McGill, who plays his right hand man, is completely wasted in his role. Common is passable in a late-starting role as a man called in to take out Jimmy and Mike, acting as much like a boogeyman as anything, popping up when the script needs him. Joel Kinnaman is an actor I’m partial to, he was the one thing in The Killing that was consistently good. Here he gets to run and fight and emote in a better role than Robocop. Vincent D’Onofrio rounds out the cast as a detective who investigated Jimmy’s murders years ago, but was never able to pin them on Jimmy, and is one of the few honest cops in the city when things turn sour and Jimmy and Mike are running for their lives.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra does little to distinguish Run All Night from most action films, or from most Liam Neeson action films. There have been better, but there are also far worse options. Run All Night is exactly the kind of movie you expect it to be, which is not a backhanded compliment by any means. The quality of the actors involved prevents it from being worse than it could be, and while I would have liked a bit more Ed Harris, the film provides enough action to sustain itself and make it a worthwhile rental
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars