Movie Review: “Run All Night”

Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Ed Harris, Vincent D’Onofrio, Boyd Holbrook, Common, Genesis Rodriguez
Jaume Collet-Serra

There was a collective cheer among film lovers when Liam Neeson rebooted his career as an action hero, if only because it meant giving the actor a bigger stage on which to ply his trade. But while the “Taken” series has helped raise his stock within Hollywood, even Neeson must realize that his continued involvement in these genre flicks has begun to veer towards parody. His latest movie, “Run All Night,” marks his third collaboration with Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra (“Unknown,” “Non-Stop”), and though it’s not any better or worse than their previous action-thrillers, it’s become so tiresome watching the actor play the same character again and again that the film is even more forgettable than usual.

Neeson stars as Jimmy “The Gravedigger” Conlon, an ex-mob enforcer for childhood friend/crime boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) who’s become a shadow of his former self, drowning his sorrows in booze to dull the memories of past sins. When he receives word that his estranged son, law-abiding limo driver Michael (Joel Kinnaman), witnessed the murder of some clients by Shawn’s sleazebag son, Danny (Boyd Holbrook), Jimmy is sent to keep Michael quiet. But Danny refuses to listen to his own father’s instructions to stay low and decides to clean up his mess by killing Michael, forcing Jimmy to shoot Danny instead. Though Jimmy is adamant that he was only protecting his son, Shawn swears to kill them both as retribution, and with the cops and Irish mob hunting them down, Jimmy and Michael must go on the run until they can clear Michael’s name.

It’s a shame that Collet-Serra and Neeson already made a movie called “Non-Stop,” because while “Run All Night” is certainly a fitting title, the former more appropriately describes the overall tone of the film. There’s quite a bit of setup in the opening act, but once Jimmy and Michael are marked for death, it hardly takes a minute to stop and catch its breath, jam-packed with wall-to-wall action featuring a cornucopia of fist fights, gunfights, car chases… you name it. Collet-Serra does a great job of keeping the story moving along, constantly throwing his two protagonists into one dangerous situation after the next, and though it’s entertaining at first, the non-stop action becomes such a sensory overload that it all starts to blend together, to the point that it’s no longer a question of whether they’ll survive the night, but by which ridiculous means they’ll accomplish it.

Because of this action-first mentality, there isn’t much room for anything else, although Collet-Serra does try to shoehorn in some clichéd father-son drama. The only reason the relationship works at all is because it has two strong actors in the roles. Neeson does his thing as the tough-as-nails hitman, bringing gravitas to an otherwise stock character, while Kinnaman delivers some of his best work to date as the angry son who wants nothing to do with the family business. The cast is rounded out by great supporting actors like Ed Harris (looking a little worse for wear), Nick Nolte (looking even more battered than Harris, like a homeless Santa Claus) and Vincent D’Onofrio (as the NYPD cop who’s been chasing Jimmy for decades), but with the exception of Harris’ scenes with Neeson, they aren’t given enough to do to warrant their inclusion. Meanwhile, Common’s turn as an ice-cold contract killer feels totally out of place alongside his older co-stars.

“Run All Night” will surely entertain those who walk into a Liam Neeson movie these days knowing exactly what to expect, but it’s so incredibly predictable and formulaic – right down to the big face-off between Jimmy and Shawn at a train yard – that there’s nothing remotely surprising that happens. The decision to open the movie with a shot of Neeson’s character lying on the ground with a gunshot wound to the stomach makes certain of that, sucking out a majority of the suspense in the process, and though it’s briskly paced for its two-hour runtime, the film is still too long. The movie’s biggest error, however, is in trying to operate both as a gritty, old-school crime thriller and a modern action flick, because “Run All Night” fails to do either genre justice by not fully committing to one or the other.


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