Review: Run All Night
PLOT: An alcoholic hitman (Liam Neeson) is forced to kill his beloved employer's (Ed Harris) son in order to protect his own estranged offspring (Joel Kinnaman). Now, father and son are forced to spend Christmas eve dodging assassins and and dirty cops, with the two being marked for death by every gangster in the city.
REVIEW: It's still hard for me to think of Liam Neeson as what he's become which is essentially the 21st century's answer to Charles Bronson. As much as the sixty-two year old Neeson excels in tough guy parts, I still think of him as the sensitive, brooding performer from SCHINDLER'S LIST and KINSEY. Yet, it can't be denied that the audiences have spoken and Neeson for better or worse is now an action God, and a bankable one at that.
His action vehicles are typically limited to the TAKEN series and films directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. But, while the TAKEN movies have gone steadily down the drain after a promising first entry, the Collet-Serra movies have gone the other way as they've gotten steadily better since their first collaboration UNKNOWN. While NON-STOP was a goofy but fun actioner, RUN ALL NIGHT aims for more respectability, mixing the requisite Neeson pyrotechnics and punch-ups with a dark underworld gangster tale.
While Collet-Serra's action style is still way too hectic for my tastes, on the whole RUN ALL NIGHT stands as his best film so far, and one of Neeson's more interesting action parts. He tends to always play brooding and hard-drinking characters (see NON-STOP or THE GREY) so his part is as Jimmy Conlon is to type. However, it's interesting in that he finally gets to play a guy that's his own age, with an adult son (Kinnaman) and a sense of his own mortality, with him conveying early on to his mob boss/pal (Harris) that he knows he'll have to pay the price in the afterlife spurring a cool comeback from Harris who assures him that when the time comes, they'll face whatever lies on the other side together.
It's interesting that unlike the TAKEN movies where he plays a doting dad, his affection here is mostly saved for Harris, even though when it comes down to it family trumps loyalty. Kinnaman probably has his strongest American part to date as Neeson's defiantly honest son, who holds down a no-frills job as a driver to support his growing family (Genesis Rodriguez is sadly wasted in a one-note part as his wife). The relationship between the two stays believably chilly and doesn't get too bogged down in sentimentality, even towards the end. Neeson's character here knows he's a bastard, and Kinnaman can't and won't forgive him for his crimes, which extend to killing family members who threatened his boss/pal.
Of course, being a Neeson action flick, the emotions are kept to a bare-minimum, with most of the close-to-two-hour running time devoted to non-stop action. While NON-STOP was confined to one location, in RUN ALL NIGHT Collet-Serra has all of NYC to play with. While his sense of geography is out-of-whack, it does give him the opportunity to stage a lengthy car chase, several foot-chases, hand-to-hand scraps in a variety of places including a burning building and more. One thing that helps distinguish RUN ALL NIGHT is that it's defiantly R-rated, with the tough gangsters dropping f-bombs left and right, and lots of gory action (although it stops short of being cartoonish). Basically, it's like a nineties action movie.
The only real problem is the editing, which is really frantic and makes a mess out of many of the set-pieces. Granted, Neeson is older and the choreography can't be as fluid as with younger action heroes, but even the chases are far-too frantic and tough to swallow. Only one action scenes really stands out, and that's a violent Irish-bar shootout, although it being scored to The Pogues' 'Fairytale of New York' maybe lays it on a little thick. The hitman character played by a clean-shaven Common is also cartoonishly indestructible, to the point that when the side of his face is burned I half-expected to see a metal endoskeleton underneath. As for the plot, it will no doubt seem immediately to anyone who's seen the far-superior JOHN WICK or ROAD TO PERDITION. Still, as a programmer it's not bad.
In the end, RUN ALL NIGHT stop short of being a really rock-solid action vehicle, but it can't be denied it's probably Neeson best all-out genre exercise in a while. While I'd say the only truly great film he's been in since TAKEN is THE GRAY, RUN ALL NIGHT is a step in the right direction and many times better than the recent TAKEN 3, and far more deserving of your box office dollars.
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