In 2008, someone with a very ‘particular set of skills’ promised his daughter’s kidnapper that he would ‘find him and kill him’. In 2015, tables turned and he is now using those skills to protect his son and evade the clutches of his brutal boss.
In Run All Night, Liam Neeson plays a beleaguered ex-hitman (Jimmy Conlon) who spends his days in despair over all the wrong-doings of his past. Close friend, boss and partner-in-crime, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) is the only man he opens up to. But, an ill-fated evening has Maguire turn against Conlon and his estranged son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman), with all his power. The vengeful Maguire will stop at nothing to see them dead. Will Conlon succeed at protecting Mike and his family?
Run All Night is the third collaboration between director Jaume Collet-Serra and Liam Neeson, after Unknown (2011) and Non-Stop (2014). Needless to say, by now the duo is near synonymous with hard-hitting, gun-swinging crime thrillers. However, this time Serra seems to have let go of the larger-than-life mystery hypothesis…and rightly so, because Run All Night is perhaps the best of the three action thrillers.
The film is quick-paced right from scene one. You witness something unfolding almost every minute, with speedy camera movements and fast narration. From the car chases through Brooklyn streets to the intese fight sequences, this film manages to stay gripping without losing the plot. Serra skillfully scales up the tension in tightly constructed sequences, such as the meeting between Maguire’s son, Danny (Boyd Holbrook) and the drug dealers, or the scene in which Jimmy and Mike attempt to escape the NYPD and a contract killer, Price (Common).
Run All Night manages to evoke emotions without going overboard. Harris and Neeson share good on-screen chemistry. Their friendship is as plausible as their enmity. The film takes some sharp turns between personal struggles, family feuds and long-standing loyalties. Fortunately, it all rarely meanders. Had the film tried harder to resolve any father-son bitterness, it would have easily catapulted into the ‘drama’ sphere. But, Brad Ingelsby’s screenplay is careful enough to steer away from any diversions at the right time.
Neeson plays the slovenly former hitman with an ease that comes when an actor is utterly comfortable in the skin of his character. His guilt around his son, his instant fondness for his grand-daughter and his reluctance to take on Harris is subtle yet prominent. In a scene where Neeson visits his ailing mother at the hospital, he writes her a note, his hand shivering slightly. Such nuances help build his character throughout the film. Yet, Neeson is quick enough to transform into the gritty, hard-hitting henchman with equal finesse.
Ed Harris delivers a commendable performance. He is calm and intimidating at the same time. Harris’ clear diction and deep voice make him every bit of the strong-willed, implacable Maguire. Joel Kinnaman has quite a stereotypical role to play, but he manages to hold the scenes with Neeson well. Kinnaman is a good actor and Run All Night might give him the recognition he deserves.
There are a few places where the film could have been better, such as the swooping camera shots from one part of NYC to another. It may help storytelling, but it’s visually disturbing. Also, the climax itself unfolds a little too quickly, wrapping up in a format aiming for convenience rather than a satisfactory close to the narrative.
On a side note, Neeson’s 2008 film, Taken, had Albanian antagonists. Run All Night also has villains who are Albanians; what exactly does Neeson have against them?
In a nutshell, Run All Night is a well-executed, engaging action thriller with a screenplay that delivers in most places. Serra-Neeson fans will not be disappointed with this one.
THE REEL SCORE: 8/10