Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman, Vincent D’Onofrio, Boyd Holbrook, Common, Genesis Rodriguez
Plot: Drunk ex-hitman, Jimmy Conlon (Neeson) is forced to kill his best friend’s son, to protect his own boy, starting up a deadly firefight in the city.
Very early on, we begin to suspect that Run All Night is potentially the most interesting thing Liam Neeson has done in years. From the first time we see his character, asleep in the corner of a bar, our interest is piqued. Suddenly we are reminded that Liam Neeson is actually a great actor, something that is becoming harder to remember whenever we see him crop up in something as below par as Taken 3 or Unknown. The character of Jimmy Conlon is one that is fun to dissect. He is introduced as that pathetic old man no one wants at a family party, forced to dress up as Santa Claus for some spare cash and drunkenly making a pass at his mates’ wives. Neeson relishes playing someone who isn’t stereotypical cool or action movie material. Later, we peel beneath the sorry excuse of a man to figure out why he is shunned by old colleagues and hated by his son, a limo driver who has an honest family, miles away from the gangsters Jimmy hangs out with. His addiction to booze is to wipe out the memory of the long list of people he has killed, while helping life-long pal Shawn Macguire climb the crime ladder. Run All Night comes across as a sort of Scarface sequel if all the characters were from Brooklyn and survived. Now mature, how do they live with their consequences? Jimmy shields his son from the criminal’s way of life and gives up dignity for another drink. Shawn seems just as formidable and illegitimate as ever, but he steers his business away from drugs, the thing he claims destroyed his old friends (a plot point that subtly creeps back in the final act). Finally we get the Neeson action we all wanted. We get the decent performance and role that we know the actor can handle (Ed Harris is also superb), as well as the gritty action Neeson seems to have adopted for the foreseeable future.
Sadly, it comes off the wheels in the second half. There are rumblings of problems at the start, but the flaws don’t truly reveal themselves until later on. Run All Night just doesn’t know what tone it wants to tell its story with. I was enjoying the slower thriller approach, as Liam Neeson and Ed Harris didn’t need an adrenaline-pumped story to captivate the audience. We were happy with them delivering pitch perfect performances and the action coming in later. It was gritty, raw and punches to the gut. It felt real and I loved it. But the hints of poor directing were there: unnecessary zoom cuts, slow-motion flash-forwards to start the movie… it was just a little out of place. Of course, it didn’t truly crash and burn, until Common’s hitman wanders onto the screen. I don’t want to place the blame entirely on Common’s shoulders, as it isn’t the actor’s fault. He is asked to play the assassin who comes after Jimmy and his son on Macguire’s orders. He plays it well, clearly the problems being on poor direction, rather than Common not understanding the tone. Common just becomes a symbol for everything Run All Night does wrong. Everything outside of the character is realistic and grounded – Common wouldn’t look out of place in a superhero movie. He has night vision googles, burns on his face and a laser-pointer attached to his handgun. He also brings too many comparisons to Road With Perdition. Run All Night plays out like a slowed-down version of Tom Hanks’ gangster thriller, which is fine, but the overtly stylised assassin that comes back for a final showdown in a family vacation zone is just too similar to Jude Law’s killer. Common acts as a new lens to view the movie under and suddenly every action scene (not to mention how Neeson goes from drunk loser to Bryan Mills without so much as a blink), is a little less impressive. It is a shame, because there are some great moments buried in this movie, like Neeson watching his son’s family from afar, tears in his eyes, or the reluctant war between Jimmy and Shawn. Shawn needs to kill Jimmy out of honour, suggesting that the violence in this movie is totally unnecessary. An interesting foot-note, but one no one will probably investigate further, seeing as the movie is bound to be disliked.
Final Verdict: Run All Night starts interesting, but almost gets bored with itself and switches up the tone to something more camp and action-packed. The result is a little messy.