Starring: Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Ed Harris
Genre: Action/ Thriller
Retired mob hit man Jimmy Conlon (Neeson) lives a troubled life haunted by the memories of all the lives he has taken for close friend and mob boss Sean Maguire (Harris), a life he chose to lead at the expense of being with his family. However after his estranged son Michael (Kinnaman) is involved in the death of Sean’s son Danny (Boyd Holbrook), Jimmy is forced to make a life or death decision regarding where his loyalties lie.
What will not surprise anyone about Neeson’s latest action flick is that he plays a former and now aging hit man who has a ‘special set of skills’ and is troubled by his past, drinks heavily and is forced to use his skills to save a member of his family (and at some point makes a threatening phone call). However, though Neesons’ character in Run All Night is all the characters he has played in Taken, Non-Stop, Unknown and A Walk Among the Tombstones combined, what however is quite refreshing here is that Neeson plays a character that actually bleeds!
In all of the aging Northern Irishman’s other meat headed action films since the admittedly decent Taken, one of the problems is that Neeson’s characters have been essentially Superman in that they will emerge from facing a ridiculous number of generic bad guys and emerge afterwards with not even a scratch (especially in the safe 12a violence of the theatrical cuts of Taken 2 & 3) therefore being no sense of danger. However one of the good things about Run All Night is that we have some genuinely nasty fisticuffs in which Neeson’s character actually gets hurt and even bleeds!
Of course Jaume Collet-Serra’s film is no masterpiece; despite the fact the fact the Collet-Serra deludedly thinks he is making Heat, it is the usual formulaic action film that we expect from Neeson that crams in as many genre clichés as possible in its quite bloated 114 minute running time. However there is no denying that it may not be quite as much fun as the extremely silly Non-Stop (also directed by Collet-Serra) it is most certainly an improvement on the dismal standards of the two Taken sequels and the incredibly dull A Walk Among the Tombstones.
Written by Brad Ingelsby, Run All Night does have some potentially interesting themes at the heart of its narrative such as the conflict of loyalty and the catharsis of a character who has led a bad life of which he attempts to atone for his sins. However just like Inglesby’s last scripted film Out of the Furnace, it fails to really capitalise on the potentially interesting themes it contains. In the case of Run All Night these themes are often forced to take a side seat to an episodic narrative of clichéd set pieces (shoot out in a train yard, shoot out in misty woods etc.) and Collet-Serra over doing it on the style in trying to create a supposedly moody atmosphere in what often feels like a tourist eye view of New York.
In some ways Run All Night perhaps tries to have too many subplots and so Jimmy’s relationship with both Michael and Sean are never developed enough to provide as much emotional engagement as they should have done. Neeson has of course got the whole troubled-aging-lethal-killer-thing down to an art form and at least for once is in the company of some decent actors which helps elevate the slightly lacklustre and generic material with Ed Harris and Joel Kinnaman certainly doing decent jobs alongside Neeson. In other highly clichéd subplots the usually excellent Vincent D’Onofrio plays one of the very few good NYPD cops that has always been determined to have Jimmy charged for all the murders he has committed, and this subplot admittedly does provide interest and some vital plot developments. However the already congested narrative then seems to feel it has to bring new characters into the mix to keep things going; and so we get professional (and highly generic and forgettable) killer Andrew Price. He is played rather blandly by rapper turned actor Common, but as a character very much at the mercy and convenience of the narrative and basically being a plot device, that is partly not his fault that the character is two dimensional and forgettable.
However it is when Neeson and Kinnaman visit an almost inaudible Nick Nolte that it really shows that the contrived and clichéd narrative really feels that Inglesby made it up as he went along with a pointless flashback and supposed ‘revelations’ that are perhaps intended to add emotional depth, but just fill like convoluted filler.
As the plot plods along the set pieces and subplots pile on top of each other, and though Run All Night is not exactly brimming with cathartic substance, it does admittedly have enough to be an entertaining film that is very much at the top end of the overcrowded genre of generic b-movie action flicks (of course many of these do star Neeson). The moody atmosphere, gruffly delivered speeches (though when Nick Nolte turns up he takes it to a whole new level!), decent performances, genuinely nasty fight scenes, an actual occasional sense of danger and half decent plot make for an admittedly very forgettable, but decent genre film. It also, as a stated earlier, is nice to be reminded that Liam Neeson is mortal and does actually bleed like the rest of us!
Run All Night is yet another action film of Neeson doing what he always does, but this time he actually gets hurt from time to time! Though it gives way to cliché, contrivance and over ambition from both writer and director in terms of subplots and style, Run All Night has just about enough to work as a decent but of course vacuous genre piece.