I thought Hollywood’s recent fascination with casting Liam Neeson as an aged badass who threatens people over the phone reached its apex with Taken 3. I was wrong. Neeson’s latest expertly trained anti hero movie is the Juame Collet-Serra (Uknown, Non Stop) directed Run All Night.
Neeson plays Jimmy Conlon, a retired hitman for a New York mobster named Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). Jimmy’s estranged son Mike (Joel Kinnaman) finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and witnesses Shawn’s half-wit son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) murder an Albanian heroin dealer. This unfortunate chain of events leads to Jimmy killing Danny in order to save Mike’s life. Shawn understands why his son was murdered but vows to make Jimmy and Mike pay for his son’s death.
With every dirty cop in New York, Shawn’s mob crew, and a hitman-for-hire named Price (Common doing his best Brother Mouzone impersonation) combing the city for Jimmy and Mike, they must put their differences aside in hopes of surviving the night.
Run All Night is not Taken 3.5. That’s a good thing. Seeing Neeson play the same role every time was starting to get a little annoying. That’s not to say Run All Night is an original idea. It’s basically a mash up of different 80’s buddy action films, like Midnight Run and 48 Hours, mixed with Liam Neeson talking on his cell phone. Two people putting differences aside to survive a night is a formula we see in action films a lot because it works. And it works again in Run All Night.
Joel Kinnaman and Liam Neeson have pretty good chemistry together. Do they look like Father and Son? No. Do they play the ‘You weren’t there for me dad’ stuff well. Yes! They even make those nauseating scenes, when two characters running for their lives take time to argue about trivial stuff, somewhat bearable.
The action sequences are well done. The big car chase and big shootout sequences look good. The final sequence in the foggy forest looks absolutely incredible. Juame Collet-Serra could’ve dialed back on the slow motion action moves, but the overuse of slow-mo didn’t derail any of the scenes.
Common may not be the best actor but he has a look that’s perfect for Hollywood. Casting him as a hitman with very little lines is brilliant. Common is not a very good actor, but he’s got enough tools that if you put him in a film, he’ll be productive if all his tools are utilized.
I know Shawn wanting revenge for Danny’s death is engine that runs the whole film, but Danny was such an unlikable jerk, using that as the reasoning for this big mess didn’t quite work. They made him a little too unlikable. And it’s hard to buy-in because the story doesn’t give you enough time to care about Danny or his relationship with his father.
Every character talks in a sultry tone like they’re were cast in a serious Film Noir remake. Leave the deep baritone threats to Liam, OK?. The heavy handed use of the score didn’t help matters either. Those two things together gave the film a much campier feeling than they were probably looking for.
There are so many leaps of faith that must be taken in order for this film to work. The end of the housing project sequence is so baffling, it should’ve ended with a gigantic question mark on the screen. Then there’s the fact that nobody recognizes Mike and Jimmy even though their faces are plastered all over television.
Vincent D’Onofrio is criminally underused as Detective Harding. He has one good diner scene with Neeson in one of the opening scenes yet is relegated to talking on a phone and going from crime scene to crime scene for the rest of the movie. Not sure why he was so underused, but the film could’ve used a jolt of his acting to jump start the story.
Run All Night has the potential to be great. It’s like a quarterback with all the tools but misses on the deep ball every time. There are times when the film could’ve had big moments but those moments are just out of reach. Some of the characters refuse to react like normal people and that makes some of the scenes almost un-watchable. Run All Night makes an attempt to be a fun action crime drama, but misses all the big moments that could make that possible. At least we got Liam Neeson threatening people on the phone again. That never gets old.