Liam Neeson. Killing people. What more do you need to know?
Liam Neeson’s third collaboration with director Jaume Collet-Serra, Run All Night is precisely the type of redemptive blockbuster that Neeson needed after the horrendous misfire of Taken 3. Although Neeson and Collet-Serra’s previous films, Unknown and Non-Stop, did possess action elements, Run All Night is a full-blown action movie which feels like a proper, unofficial Taken sequel. Anchored by strong performances right down the line, competent technical specs, and an array of bruising action sequences, this is a solid little genre movie which makes terrific use of Neeson’s trademark gruff screen persona.
A former assassin for feared New York mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) has fallen on hard times, becoming a sad-sack alcoholic with minimal money to his name. During a moment of drug-fuelled aggression, Shawn’s son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) murders a couple of Albanian drug dealers, and Jimmy’s estranged son Mike (Joel Kinnaman) bears witness to the killings. Mike soon becomes a target to avoid loose ends, but Jimmy kills Danny to protect his son, which enrages Shawn. Despite their long history, Shawn decides that Jimmy and Mike must be killed to avenge his son. As Shawn begins recruiting his goons to hunt down the pair and dismantle their lives, Jimmy urges Mike to leave New York City with him, compelling the young man to trust his despicable father for just one night. Meanwhile, Shawn calls upon a professional hit-man (Common) to ensure that the pair are dead by morning.
One of the big issues with Run All Night unfortunately rears its ugly head from the outset, with an unnecessary flash-forward which detracts a certain degree of suspense from the proceedings, as we are immediately shown that Jimmy and Mike have escaped NYC. Such a narrative device is usually used as a hook, but it simply comes across as needless in this case. Furthermore, the actions of Common’s assassin character are often illogical; he’s supposed to be doing clean, neat work, but he has no qualms with killing any number of policemen or innocent bystanders. Silliness can be forgiven in action movies, but Collet-Serra insists on a solemn, gritty tone throughout. Run All Night would have probably worked better if pitched at a more fun tone akin to the first Taken, or if the screenplay was tidied up to be more sophisticated. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it does detract from the movie to some degree.
Rather than a sanitary PG-13 effort like Taken 3 or Non-Stop, Run All Night is an R-rated action film, and it’s a creative decision which elevates the enterprise. This is a thoroughly adult effort, with a tone and demeanour that simply would not fly in a PG-13, not to mention there’s visceral impact to the gunshot wounds which makes the action scenes more satisfying. Collet-Serra is a competent visual craftsman, thus Run All Night benefits from his directorial touch, imbuing the picture with authority. Junkie XL’s score is often a tad generic but it’s nevertheless effective, amplifying the intensity of the movie’s various set-pieces.
The picture also benefits from a proficient selection of performers, who actually make some of the quieter character moments as compelling as the action scenes. Neeson and Harris are both seasoned professionals who can do this type of stuff in their sleep, and the movie’s best scenes stem from their interactions, most notably a Heat-esque meet in a diner that really should have been longer. Run All Night is a competent showcase for Neeson’s newfound action hero cool, and Harris is likewise solid, showing yet again that he’s one of the best in the business. Their gravitas is a huge benefit to the movie. In the supporting cast, Kinnaman – who was woefully ineffective in the bomb that was 2014’s RoboCop remake – submits a solid performance, with a father/son dynamic that feels real enough. Meanwhile, Vincent D’Onofrio and Common do their respective jobs well enough, while Nick Nolte also shows up out of nowhere for a one-scene cameo. Reportedly, Nolte was supposed to have a more sizeable role, but wound up being almost cut out of the finished film. What a shame.
Run All Night‘s reception was lukewarm to say the least, and it certainly underperformed at the box office. Unfortunately, this probably came as a result of Taken 3; the two-month gap wasn’t enough time for people to recover from that limp franchise trilogy-capper. Judged on its own merits, Run All Night is a robust little gem which deserves more attention. And it’s a definite improvement over the forgettable Unknown and the stale Non-Stop. It’s worth a rental at the very least, especially for action fans.
Warner’s 1080p presentation of Run All Night is perhaps as workmanlike as the film, but a fine visual outing all the same. There’s some instances of crushing with the dark photography, and not everything is as pinsharp as you would probably imagine from a current release, but a lot of that is probably down to the DP’s gritty aesthetics, which are represented wonderfully. On the other hand, the DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track is nearly perfect, more than giving the action sequences that bass-heavy boost and also allowing those quieter character moments to really land. All in all, a solid transfer.
Naturally, though, this box office dud is largely bereft of extras. There are two featurettes and some deleted scenes amassing to about thirty minutes. And most of those minutes are spent patting Neeson on the back. Standard.