Wesley Emblidge ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Movies Editor
During the “aging badass” portion of his career, Liam Neeson has made a habit of sticking with things. Be that the Taken films, attempts at comedy, or even coming back to the Batman franchise years later, the man doesn’t abandon his collaborators. One of his better partnerships is his with director Jaume Collet-Serra, who got in early on the “badass Neeson” train with 2011’s Unknown.
From there, the two teamed up again to make last year’s silly but enjoyable Non-Stop, which almost took on the badass action hero stock character by giving Neeson a bit of an anger management problem as an air marshall dealing with terrorist threats on his flight. Already they’re back with Run All Night, which casts Neeson as Jimmy Conlon, an old mobster drowning his regrets about his violent history in booze and bad choices. He’s drawn back into the game when he shoots Danny Maguire (Boyd Holbrook), whose father Shawn (Ed Harris) is Jimmy’s boss and childhood friend. Jimmy had to shoot Danny to stop him from killing his own son Michael (Joel Kinnaman), so he and Michael go on the run from Shawn’s henchmen and corrupt cops.
Collet-Serra makes some good choices here; a key part of Brad Ingelsby’s screenplay is Jimmy’s drive to make sure Michael doesn’t end up a criminal like him. Jimmy’s willing to go to prison or even die as long as his son can go back to his normal life, but Shawn wants Michael dead too, so Jimmy can feel the same pain of losing his son before dying. Making Neeson such an antihero is pretty ballsy, even if he’s still clearly the guy to root for. He’s done terrible things, killed innocent people, and hates himself for it.
Whenever the film comes back to this it gets pretty compelling, but Collet-Serra has a lot else going on here too that drags the film down. He packs the film with completely unnecessary flying camera trips across New York City between locations, going as far as to fly down through a subway car or someone’s front porch for no real reason. Lonnie Lynn (aka Common) shows up as a pretty bland hitman to keep things moving, but the film (which is essentially one long chase through the city) despite being under two hours seems to lag at every location much longer than it needs. There’s a lot you can call this movie: a bit generic, aggressively gritty, truly great when Harris is on screen, but efficient is probably the last thing anyone would.
So the film has two real selling points: see Neeson subvert his badass persona a bit, and see these two great old actors face off. Neither of those really play out to their full potential, but Run All Night still delivers the occasional thrilling car chase moment and tough Liam Neeson monologue. He’s been better, but honestly he and his fellow old action stars have done a lot worse than this. He and Collet-Serra can probably make a great movie together, so here’s hoping maybe that one is next.
Overall Grade: C