Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 54 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Strong Violence, Language including Sexual References, and some Drug Use
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Written by: Brad Ingelsby
Starring: Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Ed Harris, Common, Genesis Rodriguez, Vincent D’Onofrio & Boyd Holbrook
Another year, another Liam Neeson action movie. Most people will point out that this aged action hero has become type cast as a badass who beats people up for taking something. These films include: the TAKEN trilogy, UNKNOWN (his identity is taken), A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES (the life of someone else’s wife is taken), and NON-STOP (his plane is taken). RUN ALL NIGHT is the latest in a long line of Neeson action flicks, but stands as a damned solid effort. Packed full of tension, great scenes and good characters who are actually worth caring about, RUN ALL NIGHT is probably going to surprise a lot of people.
Jimmy Conlon is a former hitman turned alcoholic bum. Jimmy’s day-to-day existence is about drinking his life away and occasionally borrowing money from Shawn Maguire, Jimmy’s former boss and childhood friend. Mike is Jimmy’s estranged son and wants nothing to do with his former gun-for-hire father. This all changes in the space of one night. Jimmy is forced to kill Shawn’s son in order to save Mike and this launches a city-wide manhunt for the father and son. Jimmy and Mike find themselves trying to outrun the mob, corrupt cops, and a seemingly unstoppable hitman. If they can survive the night, everything will be okay. That’s easier said than done.
Though Neeson has played many action heroes in the past, he’s never played anybody to the degree of Jimmy. Jimmy’s a loser, plain and simple. You feel sorry for him and also totally understand why his son wants nothing to do with him. Neeson doesn’t simply dispatch of bad guys here. He’s playing a washed-up hitman against a bunch of thugs who are far stronger than him in many ways, which means that he actually has to outwit them as well as kill them. Ed Harris is fantastic as the likable, but vicious, Shawn. You can understand his plight and see his point-of-view, which makes him probably the most fleshed-out villain that Neeson has dealt with in any of his action films thus far. Joel Kinnaman and Boyd Holbrook respectively play the good and evil sons, but play second fiddle to the veteran actors. Vincent D’Onofrio makes the most of his scenes as one of the few good cops in the city, while Common plays the unstoppable hitman as a clichéd and familiar bad guy.
There are elements that make RUN ALL NIGHT stick out from the crowd of Neeson’s recent output. One of these is the gritty New York atmosphere. This story also happens to be taking place around Christmas and various colored lights can be glimpsed all through the city. The film gets unabashedly bloody with its R-rating, including a stellar confrontation in a bar. Besides typical action scenes that you might expect, RUN ALL NIGHT has one of the best car chases in recent memory as well as a chaotic sequence through an apartment building that’s loaded with set-pieces.
As fun and exciting as this film is, it is not without problems. Shaky camera work ruins a couple of action scenes. The film also drags in places with unneeded moments. There’s a flashback that has no place within the context of the film as well as a far-fetched hospital scene. The final 10 minutes could have easily been cut out altogether. Common’s hitman character is about as one-dimensional as villains come. There was a clear point where the film could have ended with a quiet somber nature, but went full-blown into clichéd territory that reminded me that I was watching another Liam Neeson action flick.
RUN ALL NIGHT definitely isn’t perfect, but is a lot of fun. The performances from Neeson and Harris alone make this film worth watching. Once you throw in some stellar action scenes and a gritty R-rated tone, this movie stands as one of the higher points in Neeson’s career as an action star. Though it’s too long in areas (especially the ending), there’s enough entertainment value and adrenaline-pumping goodness to make RUN ALL NIGHT well worth a look.