Around two weeks ago, I came across the advertisement of “Run All Night” when I went to a neighbourhood movie theater with my brother, and I could not help but be sarcastic about that action movie in question. Not long after “Taken 3”, which was incidentally a pretty lousy way for me to begin the first week of this year, we were going to get another action movie starring Liam Neeson, and that was an understandable reason for my initial skeptical reaction to the movie, though I should not judge a film before watching it.
Anyway, I am glad to report that, though it is indeed another typical case featuring a moody, depressed tough guy which has been Liam Neeson’s own specialty since his first trial in “Taken” (2008), “Run All Night” turns out to be a lot better than “Taken 3” (2015). While there are surely lots of shootings throughout its running time, there is also considerable dramatic weight in the story, and its simple thriller plot is more engaging than expected as it occasionally focuses on its characters and their relationships between action scenes.
There was a time when Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) was a notorious gang member feared by everyone around his neighborhood in New York, but now he looks more like an alcoholic loser leading his lonely daily life without much care about himself or others. Haunted by many crimes he committed in the name of survival, he is usually drunk while not being much help to his gang organization, and he even botches a simple job of playing Santa in front of kids at a party held at the house of his boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris).
Conlon could have been eliminated or excluded from his organization if it had not been for the kindness of Maguire, who understands well Conlon’s moroseness as his close friend. When they are alone in a bedroom in Maguire’s house during one scene, they confide to each other on their old days with the bitter regret of survivors, and Neeson and Harris ably evoke the dark history of violence between their characters as they are reminded that they have no one but themselves as someone to share their old memories with. While these two old veterans of crime survived as winners on their mean streets, that prize came with an emotional price for both of them, and, as Conlon bitterly says to Maguire, they have no choice but to go on together along with their guilt and regret till the end waiting for them somewhere.
And it seems that inevitable point is near for them now. Maguire’s only son Danny (Boyd Holbrook), a reckless and volatile guy eager to impress his father, gets himself involved with the drug business of a local Albanian gang organization, and that eventually leads to his impulsive killing of two Albanian gangs. While this incident can cause a big problem to his father’s business, Conlon’s son Mike (Joel Kinnaman), an ex-boxer currently working as a limousine driver for supporting his family, happens to witness Danny’s killing, and that naturally puts Mike in a very dangerous circumstance.
After notified about this serious trouble between their sons, both Maguire and Conlon try to manage the situation as much as they can, but they soon arrive at the fateful point as they have to make a choice as two fathers caring about their respective sons. Although Mike still holds lots of grudges against a man who was far from a good dad to him in the past, his father is only possible option for him to save his family as well as himself from an imminent danger, and Conlon is already determined to do anything necessary for what may be the last chance to do something good for his son and his son’s family – even that means he has to fight against a man to whom he has been close for years.
As Conlon and his son run away from Maguire’s gangs and the New York Police during their long, sleepless night, the director Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously collaborated with Neeson in “Unknown” (2011) and “Non-Stop” (2014), keeps the story moving under steady pace in spite of several clunky contrivances here and there in the plot. The action scenes in the film are a little too frantic because of choppy editing, but they are well-made ones while placed well along the plot to hold our attention, and there is also a suspenseful moment when Mike and his family must be quiet and careful for not getting killed.
Liam Neeson did another competent job of bringing human vulnerability to his character while looking tough and resolute whenever it is required, and Ed Harris is also effective as Neeson’s opponent. Like Neeson, Harris can be commanding in his own way, and it is always interesting to watch these two talented actors finding something to show and tell about their characters whenever they share the screen. While Boyd Holbrook plays his loathsome character with nervous intensity to admire, Joel Kinnaman holds his place well besides Neeson, and Common, who recently won Best Song Oscar for “Selma” (2014), gets a thankless task as a professional killer chasing after Conlon and Mike. Some of the small supporting roles in the film are filled by notable actors like Vincent D’Onofrio, Lois Smith, and Bruce McGill, and the brief but crucial cameo appearance by a certain well-known actor is another good element to mention in the film.
“Run All Night” is not the best work among Neeson’s recent action films, but it has more good things to enjoy compared to most of them, and Neeson shows again that he is still a dependable action movie hero with particular sets of skills. I gave “The Grey” (2011), which is the best of the bunch, 3.5 stars while giving “Unknown” and “Non-stop” 2.5 stars, so I guess it is fair to give “Run All Night” 3 stars considering the enough amount of entertainment I had during my viewing. I do not think I will remember it well after several months, but this is definitely a better alternative to “Taken 3”.