Run All Night (2015) / Action-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, language including sexual references, and some drug use
Running Time: 114 min.
Cast: Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Ed Harris, Vincent D'Onofrio, Boyd Holbrook, Genesis Rodriguez, Common, Bruce McGill
Small role: Nick Nolte
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Screenplay: Brad Ingelsby
Review published March 14, 2015
In a further effort to have us confuse Liam Neeson's (Taken 3, A Walk Among the Tombstones) films with nearly interchangeable protagonists and storyline, he plays an retired New York City hit-man named Jimmy Conlon, who once had a 'successful' career putting marks on ice for childhood pal and mob boss Shawn (Harris, Frontera). With cops sniffing around and friends falling by the wayside, he's more of a sad-sack, alcoholic loner these days, having to beg Shawn's son, a two-bit punk named Danny (Holbrook, Gone Girl), for a few dollars to buy more booze. Jimmy comes out of retirement when his estranged limo-driver son Mike (Kinnaman, RoboCop) is witness to murders of his Albanian drug dealer clients, committed by Danny, only to find himself about to be murdered to avoid loose ends; Jimmy takes matters into his own hands, and Danny is no more. Friend or not, self defense excuse or not, Shawn comes after Jimmy and Mike in an eye-for-an-eye approach that leaves them with nowhere to go and nowhere to hide.
The film starts out with what appears to be Jimmy laying out in a wooded area alone and ostensibly mortally injured, then flashes back sixteen hours to how he ended up in that predicament indicated by the plot summary above. The events of the evening are condensed to under two hours (I guess removing bathroom breaks and the like), in this overly sprawling screenplay by Brad Ingelsby, who delivered something similar in the promising-but-uneven Out of the Furnace a year before. The script, which some claim is a bit too similar to Road to Perdition to feel fresh, is quite shoddy and meanders, and it is especially infuriating that it has a needless flash-forward when it makes the film less suspenseful on where it's eventually going, as well as adding no additional narrative or emotional hook to justify its inclusion.
Run All Night is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, whose rapport with Neeson must be rock-solid given that this is their third collaboration together (after Unknown and Non-Stop). It's about on par in quality as those other films, but this one has more of a decided dramatic feel to its thrills, relying less on plot twists and containing almost no humor whatsoever. It's a dark film, both in tone and its cinematography, which does tie in with the night-time aspect of its title, but also gives it more of a late-night cable b-movie feel, despite its star power.
The film benefits from a competent cast -- nothing spectacular, but they fit -- and some very good action set pieces that don't strain the story's credibility. Neeson isn't giving us anything new, but Kinnaman is surprisingly good as the jaded son. D'Onofrio (The Judge) and Common (Selma) have smaller parts as the one good cop in the city and the Terminator-esque assassin for hire, respectively, who keep the plot moving forward in their separate, tenacious pursuit of the Conlons. Ed Harris is strong enough to make you wish the story concentrated more on him and less on a host of side characters that don't merit mentioning here, save an uncredited Nick Nolte (Noah) getting a scene out of nowhere (reportedly, his more sizable role was all but completely cut out of the film).
It's all a bit long, and a bit too many characters and other spinning wheels are introduced to truly flesh out the main characters enough to emotionally resonate by the end. If you're a die-hard Neeson-in-action fan, or just don't mind time-killer thrillers with some slick action sequences (including a nifty car chase in which cop and crook are reversed), Collet-Serra's mob-revenge tale is watchable while it plays, even if it is likely to be forgotten not long after viewing -- Run All Night definitely won't be running through your mind all night.
©2015 Vince Leo