Possible spoilers ahead!
With “Unknown” and “Non-Stop,” star Liam Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra delivered their most satisfying work to date by sticking to a simple formula: Making a mystery-action thriller film with intriguing plots and solid casts. But the duo’s latest effort, “Run All Night,” didn’t work for me.
The film centers around Jimmy Conlon (Neeson) a man who used to be a notorious mob enforcer. The cops believe Jimmy is responsible for over a dozen murders ordered by infamous Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). Back in the day, if Jimmy knocked on your door, you knew it was bad news. But today, Jimmy Conlon doesn’t have much left to live for.
He spends most of his days waking up in a bar just to start drinking again. He’s now forced to beg Shawn’s son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) for money in exchange for drunkenly playing Santa Claus at a party. The once feared man is now openly mocked by the younger, tougher generation of mobsters. And worst of all, Jimmy also lost all touch with his son Mike (Joel Kinnaman), who is trying to live a straight life as a limo driver with his wife (Genesis Rodriguez) and two kids (with a third on the way). Mike is even mentoring kids at a local youth center.
The first act of “Run All Night” is really the story of two sons: one trying to get away from the criminal underworld and one diving as deeply as possible into it. As Danny (Boyd Holbrook) brings a major heroin deal to Ed Harris. But when Dad says no, Danny is in serious trouble with the Albanian heroin dealers who want their money back.
That night, the dealers hire Mike to drive them to a meeting with Danny that goes horribly awry. Before you know it, Danny is dead, and Mike is a target of everybody in the criminal underworld, including a high-priced assassin played by recent Oscar winner Common, and only his estranged dad can keep him safe till morning.
To be honest, I did not like “Run All night.” I found the movie very predictable, and it was nothing I haven’t seen many times before. But that’s not to say “Run All Night” doesn’t have its good points.
Liam Neeson does arguably the best work of his action career here in that he’s able to capture a man who doesn’t just come to life as a killing machine when necessary, but has enough left in the tank to get the job done one last time.
Liam Neeson also rises above the potential cliché of the criminal redemption arc we see in many films like this. He doesn’t allow any of the potential melodrama to sink into his portrayal. Neeson’s take on Jimmy is that of a man doing what needs to be done, period. This is one man who is not necessarily trying to right his past wrongs.
And by far the best scenes in the movie is watching Neeson and Ed Harris together, especially an incredibly tense meeting at a restaurant in the middle of the film. They’re both great here in that neither overplays their hero or villain role. Jimmy, the good guy, is a murderer, bur trying to protect his son while Shawn, the bad guy, is emotionally mourning the loss of his child.
“Run All Night” is not a perfect movie by any means. It’s long, over the top violent, and predictable. Heck, it’s not even one of my favorite Liam Neeson movies. But just because I didn’t like it, doesn’t mean you should skip it. Everyone I was with liked the movie, and the fact is “Run All Night” is worth seeing just for the scenes between Neeson and Ed Harris.
“Run All Night” final score: 6.5