“Run All Night” is the story of two friends who in a twist of fate become enemies. Ed Harris is Shawn Maguire, a mob boss with enough dignity and family values for you to root for him. Liam Neeson is Jimmy Conlon, known around town as the gravedigger for all the bodies he has put in the ground. Those days are long past though. His friend Maguire has things together, a nice house, a family, stability, an organization and power. Conlon has two things, guilt and a revolver.
Jimmy kills Shawn’s kid when Shawn’s kid tries to kill Jimmy’s estranged son. It gets complicated. It’s a little more unique than I was expecting and it gives Harris and Neeson something to actually do. You’ll be forgiven for thinking maybe you’ve heard this one before. Paternal, grizzled, emotional and violent thrillers and actioners seem to be the order of the day.
“Run All Night” is best recommended in the context of the recent Liam Neeson action renaissance. Here is a short history of late period “action dad” Liam Neeson.
The year is 2008. “Taken” by Pierre Morel comes out and sounds like it should have been a DTV piece of garbage but instead becomes a surprise hit. This movie is largely responsible for how marketable every subsequent “dadcore deathsterpiece” is. We’ll start with the really bad ones and work our way to the good.
On the bad to terrible end of the spectrum are a series of two garbage pairings.
2010’s “Clash of the Titans” followed by 2012’s “Wrath of the Titans” which gave us Neeson in tinfoil saying “release the kraken” and silly force powers gods fighting a living mountain.
We can’t forget 2012’s “Taken 2” followed by 2014’s “Taken 3.” Both were directed by Olivier Megaton whose last name over-promises almost as the people who marketed these movies.
This leads us to the slightly better category of films directed by “Run All Night’s” Jaume Collet-Serra. 2011’s low budget amnesia action film “Unknown” was followed in 2014 by much better, but still silly plane hijacking guessing game “Non-Stop.”
Arguably the best films in the period since 2008 are 2010’s “The A-Team” and 2011’s “The Grey” both directed by Joe Carnahan. Just beneath these two but with its own unique flavor is Scott Frank’s 2014 book adaption “A Walk Among the Tombstones.”
This list doesn’t even include Neeson’s bit parts in things like Battleship and the most recent Batman film. Add to this about as many voice acting credits as actual physical parts and you get the idea that Neeson has been working some overtime in the last 7 years.
So in situating “Run All Night” within this pantheon, I’d put it above all of the garbage in the middle. While it’s better than Jaume Collet-Serra’s earlier attempts, it never quite matches the incredible tonal and texture qualities of “A Walk Among the Tombstones” or the fun of The “A-Team” or the meditative beating heart of “The Grey.”
Walking into “Run All Night” you know that it is a competent film that actually earns some of its self-seriousness. The car action and an escape from a block housing complex are particular kinetic points. It has split reviewers but I really like Common’s performance as a contract assassin who is brought in to spice up the movie in the middle. One of the things that snuck up on me was how much variance the action had, settings shift and it never felt repetitious or unoriginal which is the biggest trap for this type of film. The film takes its time though. The propulsion suffers and the title ultimately under delivers.
If for no other reason, “Run All Night” has something unique that you can’t get anywhere else, a scene where a drunken lecherous Santa Neeson ruins Christmas for some children.
“Run All Night” is now playing at AMC Mayfair Mall.