Genre: Gangster Running Time: 1 hr. 54 min.
Release Date: March 13th, 2015 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra Actors: Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman, Boyd Holbrook, Bruce McGill, Genesis Rodriguez, Vincent D’Onofrio, Common, Holt McCallany
ver since “Taken” (2008), Liam Neeson essentially plays just one character. Fortunately, it’s a highly entertaining, levelheaded, cool-under-pressure persona that has yet to grow tiresome. But, like Bruce Willis in his fifth outing for the “Die Hard” franchise, Neeson is now forced to share the screen with a younger partner of sorts, which lessens the impact and amusement of such an appealing, older action hero role, especially as he retains an air of believability in his heavy-hitting raucousness.
Like far too many movies of late, “Run All Night” (sporting a truly uninspired title) begins with the climax, here showing James “Jimmy” Conlon (Liam Neeson) sprawled out in a forest clearing, nearly unconscious from bullet wounds and reminiscing about his notorious life as a gangster – full of evil deeds and haunting faces from the past. The story proper begins 16 hours earlier, with Jimmy asking for a loan from Danny (Boyd Holbrook), the son of one of New York’s most revered mobsters, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). Jimmy has been out of the game for some time, seeking solace at the bottom of a whiskey bottle, but was formerly regarded as a terrifying enforcer – dubbed the “Gravedigger” for his numerous, unproven assassinations. Only NYPD Homicide Detective John Harding (Vincent D’Onofrio) refuses to dismiss Conlon’s extensive list of sins.
When Shawn turns down a lucrative business proposal from Albanian heroin smugglers (due to his personal distaste for narcotics and their effects, not unlike a decision made by Don Corleone in “The Godfather”), brought to him by his ill-advised son, Danny decides to save face and clean up the mess by executing the drug dealers himself. Jimmy’s own son Michael (Joel Kinnaman) happens to be the limo driver for the Albanians and witnesses the murders, eventually leading to Danny’s death at the hands of Conlon. This sets into motion Shawn’s unshakeable desire for revenge, forcing Jimmy and Mike to flee from hordes of thugs, crooked cops, and an unusually formidable assassin (Common, in a rare, amusing role).
“Listen to your father for one night!” The film takes place on the darkest and stormiest of all dark and stormy nights, with thrilling car chases through congested streets, fistfights in tight spaces, and plenty of destructive gunfire exchanges. It’s not a particularly intelligent gangster flick (time is even spent trying to create sympathy for Danny, who is predictably despicable and irredeemable), but the action scenes are handled with obvious care, highlighted by a burning apartment set piece that features a duel with flaming wooden beams. Most of the film adopts the tenseness of pursuits from “The Fugitive,” with Harris embodying a superb villain and Neeson remaining forever watchable in his repetitive endeavors of elusion.
Neeson’s character possesses the same set of skills as in his last several projects, but as with “A Walk Among the Tombstones” (2014), he’s residing in a darker, more morbid, and certainly more realistic environment than in the world of the “Taken” series, which seems to magically grant an overly cinematic imperviousness to harm. Sadly, just as “Run All Night’s” competency kicks in, some terrible choices are made – including modernized CG editing with cameras zooming about the city and a completely unnecessary flashback right in the middle of the film. The father and son moments are comparably basic, as are the scenes of Mike’s ordinary family, led by incurious wife Gabriela (Genesis Rodriguez). There’s also a random subplot involving Mike’s boxing hobby and the kid he trains, which gives way to strangely contradictory character development; Mike is brutal at times, frequently brandishing guns, but insists that his student must never curse. And by the time the plot circles back around to the opening shot, the finale is entirely guessable – though not without a touch of convincing bravado.
– Mike Massie