An emotionally-tortured man gets a chance at redemption when suddenly he gets the opportunity to protect his son from his oldest friend in the action-thriller, Run All Night.
Over the last several years, it seems that Liam Neeson has been more interested in being the new Clint Eastwood/Charles Bronson than just acting. He has starred in a slate of films, which usually follow the narrative of a good man pushed too far and good man beats down said adversary. This formula has worked well for Neeson in films such as his Taken franchise, The Grey and Non-Stop.
Make no mistake, Neeson’s reinvention has morphed into a wonderful side niche for him, making him rich and introducing an entire new generation of movie fans to his work. While his latest film, Run All Night, mines familiar territory, director Jaume Collet-Serra uses creative technical flourishes satisfying storytelling for a crowd-pleasing experience.
After years of killing as a Mob hitman, Jimmy Conlon (Neeson) is in emotional turmoil. Even when he sleeps, Jimmy can’t find peace. Known to his associates as “The Gravedigger,” due to his propensity to puts his foes to permanent sleep, Jimmy has lost everything and is simply marking time and existing. Serving as an enforcer for his closest childhood friend and mob boss, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), he even suffers the indignity of playing an inebriated Santa to Shawn’s family, at the behest of his friend’s bad-seed son, Danny (Boyd Holbrook).
Proud of Danny, but sensing that his son is going down the wrong path, Shawn’s worst feelings are realized when he discovers that his attempts to cross an Albanian gangster, has him on the run. Told to stand down by Shawn, Danny instead tries to cover his tracks by killing a witness to his crime: Jimmy’s son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman). Estranged from Mike and his family for years, Jimmy’s heroic act to save Mike infuriates Shawn, who marks Jimmy, Mike and his family for death.
Also on Jimmy’s trail is the cunning Detective Harding (Vincent D’Onofrio), who knows that he is a killer but wants the names of his victims to bring peace to their families. The clock is ticking, can Jimmy keep Michael alive long enough for evidence to come to exonerate him or will Harding, Shawn and his goons or his highly-efficient assassin, Mr. Price (Common) bring the “glory” and get him first?
Written by Brad Ingelsby, who created another tense thriller, Out of the Furnace, Run All Night on the surface is simply a revenge-thriller but the casting of Neesom and Harris raises the ante and the story’s stake. These two old friends have watched their lives go in opposite directions and there is a great scene where the two share a very intimate childhood memory. While the world has turned its back on Jimmy, Shawn comforts his friend by telling him, “whatever we do, we’re doing it together.” The sentiment, although hokey, serves as a prelude and prophesy as the story plays out.
Using technical wizardry that allows the camera to fly across the city from one location to the next, the device gives the story a sense of urgency that makes this “one night only” story succeed. While the film is littered with bad guys and men with checkered pasts, there is a certain honor among these men, who value family and possess such a strong paternal instinct to protect their own families over their own lives.
Hollywood has certainly had its share of anti-heroes, who take matters into their own hands when their backs are against the wall. From Bronson’s Death Wish franchise to Eastwood’s Dirty Harry and later Gran Torino films, Neeson is simply regurgitating, as well as re-imagining this persona for current film audiences. Run All Night fails to reach the heights of Taken but has enough action and layers to give filmgoers enough bang for their bucks – even if this anti-hero needs to give this genre a rest and return to his acting roots.