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Overall Rating
2.64

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 7.14%
Just Average50%
Pretty Crappy: 42.86%
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2 reviews, 2 user ratings



Run All Night
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by Brett Gallman

"Stop messing with Liam Neeson's family already."
3 stars

“Run All Night” is the latest entry in the “Liam Neeson Kills Everyone and Broods About it” canon, which is not to be confused with the “Liam Neeson Just Kills Everyone” canon.

With its release, director Jaume Collet-Serra and Neeson have run the gamut of this spectrum: together, they’ve collaborated on a dreadful, empty-headed thriller (“Unknown”), a solid, empty-headed thriller (“Non-Stop”), and, now, a crime-thriller with some kind of thoughts rattling around in its overworked head. At least it has thoughts, right?

Granted, most of its musings tend to lean on clichés to put its various moving parts in order. Neeson is once again a drunken lout in the role of Jimmy Conlon, an ex-hitman haunted by the ghosts of his victims. His three-decade reign of terror was in the service of mob boss and childhood friend Shawn McGuire (Ed Harris), who has since gone legitimate. However, his bratty son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) never got the memo and sets up a drug smuggling deal with some Albanian heroin lords that coincidentally puts him on a collision course with Jimmy’s son (Joel Kinnaman), a limousine driver who resents the family business—not to mention his lousy, absent father. But when he’s really in a bind, it’s his old man that bails him out by killing Danny, thus setting off a chain of events that have father and son running from both Shawn’s wrath and the NYPD.

While this hook is baited with an abundance of lures, it’s a pretty enticing one. Somehow, Neeson’s shtick has yet to become completely stale; in fact, it’s still capable of reinvigorating a rather limp screenplay that’s overly reliant on exposition to set up its premise. We hear an awful lot about Jimmy and Shawn’s former exploits and their lifelong friendship via conversations between and about them, and it’s the deterioration of this bond that drives the tension here. Luckily, Collet-Serra has both Neeson and Harris to sell it to audiences: with less capable performers, “Run All Night” would simply be a dumb thriller without gravitas. With these two, it at least gives the impression of meaning something—even if it really doesn’t. Sometimes, appearances mean everything.

“Run All Night” puts on a good show. What it does directly reveal about its characters paints completely opposite portraits: where Shawn still commands respect, Jimmy has to take a gig as a lecherous Santa just to keep his heater working (Did you know you wanted to see Neeson in a “Bad Santa” sequel? You do now.). Neeson is in full tortured scoundrel-with-a-heart-of-gold mode here: he’s the sort of guy who doesn’t hesitate to make a dick joke in the presence of kids, but he’s also the type of guy who feels really, really bad about having killed over a dozen folks. Even though he’s not in jail, he’s still paying for it—at least that’s what he says to those around him. But above all—as always—Neeson finds himself as a protective papa bear defending his family, the premise that launched his career renaissance in the first place.

For a film titled “Run All Night” Collet-Sera’s variation on the familiar theme dedicates a remarkable amount of time on characterization. It’s propulsive without being hyperkinetic, and it catches its breath long enough to hit small beats between the big action sequences: the testy interactions between father and son, the even testier dialogue between Jimmy and the cop (Vincent D’Onofrio) that’s been tailing him for years, the grave confession of a decades-long secret in the company of another estranged family member (a nice cameo from Nick Nolte, who is now grizzled personified). Each moment has the effect of adding heft without weighing the film down, even if many of them border on cloying claptrap. (Nothing will make your eyes roll more than its insistence on sidelining every female character, including Genesis Rodriguez, who deserves more than a helpless, wife-in-peril role).

This is to say “Run All Night” lives up to its title by outrunning many of its scripted shortcomings. Collet-Sera wisely depends on his stellar cast to set the scene, and he does his part to inject the film with the right amount of energy to keep it moving, even as the script loads him up with subplot after subplot. One involves a neighborhood kid that Jimmy’s kid mentors, and it’s mostly just an excuse for a ludicrously gigantic set-piece set inside of an exploding apartment complex.

Another one finds the father-son duo clashing with Shawn’s hitman (Common), a nigh-indestructible killing machine who drops in and out of the movie depending on how much peril is required. Speaking of things you didn’t know you wanted to see: Common playing a fucking Terminator. Seriously, “Run All Night” is recommendable on this point alone.

It also sort of rules as gritty New York City thriller. Jimmy’s long night takes him from one borough to the next, and he predictably sticks to the city’s grimy underworld: the cluttered subways, the ghastly train yards, the greasy, old-neighborhood dives. As is often the case, the city itself looms as a character, adding ambiance and menace to the proceedings. Given the setting and the blurred lines between crooked cops and mobsters, it feels tailor-made for Abel Ferrara, and I must confess I’ve spent a lot of time wondering what “Run All Night” might have been had he directed it 30 years ago.

For as violent and coarse as it can be, “Run All Night” pulls just a few punches and eventually sands off its own edges by staying the course with Jimmy’s redemptive journey. It is initially a bit staggering to see Neeson playing such an irredeemable hoodlum, but, eventually, he feels a lot like his other wounded, affecting badasses. His history as a cold-blooded killer doesn't keep him from wanting to preserve his son's innocence: he wants to prevent violence here as much as he wants to cause it, an interesting paradox that doesn't quite mesh with the surrounding bloodshed.

At some point, Neeson might need to find a film that allows him to fully embrace how scuzzy and slimy these characters can be. Despite its flourishes, “Run All Night” feels just a little too safe and rote to separate itself from superior entries in this canon, like “The Grey” and “A Walk Among the Tombstones.”

What’s somewhat ironic is that “Taken” now feels like an outlier in this sequence: they might be the most notorious and helped to kickstart this career deviation, but they’re easily the least interesting films of the bunch. Something like “Run All Night” at least attempts to function as a character drama, and, even though that attempt somewhat restricts it, you can’t help but think it’s preferable to watching Neeson literally phone it in for Olivier Megaton (never forget that a key sequence in “Taken 2” involved a cell phone conversation where Maggie Grace set off bombs as a form of GPS).

One might argue that “Run All Night” doesn’t feature anything that memorably ridiculous, and they’d be right. It does, however, feature a director who can competently film an action scene and who feels invested in actually telling a story. In fact, between this and most of his previous efforts (particularly the incredible “Orphan”), it’s time we acknowledged Collet-Serra as a reliable genre hand.

He takes this stuff just seriously enough without missing out on its entertainment value. Only a director with a sense of fun would grant us a fourth act where Common practically becomes a Universal Soldier. You don't see that everyday.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=26438&reviewer=429
originally posted: 03/15/15 14:28:11
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User Comments

10/17/15 mr.mike Pretty good DVD rental. 4 stars
4/26/15 The Big D 1 star for entertainment; 5 stars for showing how grim and depressing organized crime is. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  13-Mar-2015 (R)
  DVD: 16-Jun-2015

UK
  N/A

Australia
  13-Mar-2015
  DVD: 16-Jun-2015




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