Run All Night
Starring Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman, Boyd Holbrook
Written by Brad Ingelsby
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
In the last five years, Liam Neeson's THE GREY is his best, most nuanced, most accomplished role since he broke 'big' with action films once TAKEN took off. TAKEN 2 and 3 were just disasters of mediocre movie-making and unenthusiastic deliveries by Neeson. Haven't seen A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES, so can't comment if that was a marked improvement, but I can say that RUN ALL NIGHT is.
To clarify, RUN ALL NIGHT isn't a deep movie, nor altogether a return to the 'glory days' (aka six or so years ago) of Liam Neeson being a bona fide action star, but it's a mark in the right direction. It gives Neeson his juiciest material to work with in years as a character torn between his loyalties to his best friend of several decades and his duty to his flesh and blood. Of course he will always choose his son, Michael, and he will do whatever necessary to save him (Neeson's characters are always quite skilled at protecting family members), but to have that extra layer of kinship - hell, brotherhood - with the villain of the story? That right there adds some much needed drama and dimension to action movies that have become rather thin of everything as of late.
RUN ALL NIGHT has Neeson as Jimmy (lame name, folks, but gives him the Common Man vibe; a Common Man who also just happens to have a particular set of skills . . .), a drunk lowlife ex-super killer for his buddy and non-blood brotha Shawn (Harris). They're best of mates until a series of absurd coincidences forces Jimmy to kill Shawn's son to save his own. Thus begins the longest night of their lives, as these two families cause mass havoc in the streets of New York City with car chases, bathroom fista cuffs, and apartment explosions. And have to deal with the threat of sporadic rain!
Thing is, my one thumb up kudos for RUN ALL NIGHT is probably elevated because of the shit storm of subpar movies Qui-Gon's been in before. The fact that I'm watching this action movie that has fight scenes that I can actually comprehend, a story that actually tries, and characters of substance, well -- that just seems maverick compared to the rest of the similar titles of this litter. It's a fine film, highly competent, shot and lit with such moody dark blues and bright florescent vistas that it's actually rather impressive. The real heart of this whole thing is the Jimmy and Shawn relationship, where decades of brotherhood is dissolved due to familial duty and obligation. Blood has been shed, and the only way to rectify the situation is with blood.
It all culminates in a shootout in the woods, but the real ending is a rather tragic, low-key, quiet exchange of bullets and words at on the train tracks. It's a nice beat, two friends forced to this shit storm of death. Shawn and Jimmy even have a motto that's repeated at least four times throughout the movie, probably one of those things more seasoned screenwriters should probably skip, because it telegraphs the films trajectory immediately. There's two ways this movie could end, but throw that motto in there and now there's only really one way.
All in all, this was one run I was satisfied to partake in. A dark action thriller that works. If Neeson decided to hang up the action reins now, it'd be a good choice to end on (seriously, watching Neeson try to keep up or conduct the same maneuvers as his considerably younger costars was a bit sobering; his roles work best when he's a straightforward physical force, like a shark, picking out bad guys without much aerobics). Better this than a hypothetical-perhaps-soon-not-to-be-hypothetical TAKEN 4. Give RUN ALL NIGHT a go if you're a Liam Neeson fan like myself, but if you're looking for solid action spectacle, rent or blind buy Keanu Reeve's JOHN WICK instead.