Judging from recent comments from elite level actor turned actor star Liam Neeson, his run as an ass kicker is nearing its end. After all, the man has to watch out for his health and certainly couldn’t be believable pummeling thug’s heads in ten years on. However, I’m starting to believe that he’s also thinking about giving up the way of the gun because quite simply, people are starting to tire of it, as there are only so many Taken 3s we can withstand. So considering that from this moment forward, any Neeson action outing could be his last, it’s about time that he start making them count!
Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson), a former mob enforcer who has descended into alcoholism in light of his estrangement from his son Michael (Joel Kinnaman), is trying to lay low and live out the rest of his days without any more bloodshed. It seems to be working, even if he has to take the odd job as a Santa Claus for a mob christmas party now and again, until Michael happens upon a drug deal gone horribly wrong at the hand of Jimmy’s boss and best friend Shawn’s (Ed Harris) son Danny (Boyd Holbrook). When Jimmy finds himself having to kill Danny to protect Michael, the two men find themselves having to go on the run from Shawn’s murderous wrath, as well as the ensuing sea of police that start to follow the trail of blood.
From the moment that Ed Harris barks at a group of drug dealers to leave his quarters because he is a “legitimate businessman” it becomes pretty clear that we’re getting nothing particularly new in Run All Night. It’s not a terrible surprise, since Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra have collaborated twice before on Unknown, and Non-Stop, which were both fairly standard as far as plot is concerned. However, as in those two films, this duo understands that if you’re going to do something generic, the least you can do is infuse it with a little energy of some kind. In Unknown and Non-Stop, they weaved winding mysteries for Neeson’s characters to solve, and here, it’s a palpable attention that is paid to character.
Even when the basic premise here is at it’s most trite, what tends to save this film are the rather interesting dynamics that run though it. Sure, the estranged father and son trope isn’t anything particularly new, the movie isn’t satisfied to leave the conflict at the tired and true “you were never here daddy” cliche. Neeson and Kinnaman portray the rift with a solid amount of grit, and as we find out just how far into depravity Neeson slipped, the tension between the two becomes all the more understandable. It dosen’t just slip into the two of them being best friends when the plot suddenly needs it to, but allows mere begrudging respect guide Michael to see things his father’s way for one night. This is wonderfully paralleled with Harris, who gives a wonderful performance here as he experiences the hurt involved in trying to kill somebody he holds dear, because of what that person happened to do to his own flesh and blood. This constant ray of doubt runs through him more and more as the film goes on, and ensures that he never becomes just another cardboard villain.
If anything, things just become boring once they do have to go into action. Neeson just seems tired with these types of sequences at this point, infusing almost none of the emotion that he brought to these scenes in earlier films, instead just going through the motions of what he has to do to move things forward. The set-ups aren’t anything to get excited about here either, with the standard close quarters fights, car chases, and shoot outs that we’ve even seen in other Neeson/Serra films. This story really could have benefitted from that extra jump start of style and emotion, and because it’s deprived of that, it little by little falls into the category of generic action film #50067. There’s also some pretty damn lousy editing, to the point where shots will repeat two or three times without any attempt to cover it up, and some choppy cutting in the tighter fights to cover up lousy choreography.
There is certainly an attempt to bring something to Run All Night that stems beyond the blood and the bullets, and that is very appreciated. However, it all ultimately falls a bit flat due to phoned in execution, that really dosen’t seem to want to elevate the material above what is simply a passible TNT action movie. Neeson certainly is watchable, but I look forward to a long break from seeing him in these types of roles, as they just don’t seem to give him the cathartic rush that they used to, and hopefully, taking something a bit more intimate and character focussed will bring the master in him out once again.