As far as movies go, I’m just going to assume that Run All Night is Liam Neeson’s way of apologizing for Taken 3. And well, apology accepted. Where as that threequel was a cartoon wrapped in a farce, Run All Night is a surprisingly robustly constructed reminder that Neeson is still a potent lead when working with material seemingly not sprung from the mind of a drunk 12-year old boy.

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For Run All Night, the geri-action star teams up once again with his Unknown and Non Stop director, Jaume Collet-Serra, pushing the pairings’ record to 3 for 3 when it comes to solidly entertaining if admittedly easily forgetful thrillers. The duo have essentially become a production line for the Chinese food equivalent of Hollywood cinema – lip-smacking delicious in the moment, but an hour later you can barely remember the dish’s name and you’re hungry for something else – and to be honest, I’m perfectly OK with that. MNet is always in need of low-effort diversions for their Sunday night movie slot.

This particular diversion sees Neeson as Jimmy Conlon, a washed-out mob enforcer who now spends his days looking more into the bottom of a bottle than he does down the sights of a gun. The only reason he’s still kept around is because his boss, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), also happens to be his best friend since childhood. The only person that wants Jimmy out of their lives even more than the up-and-comers in Maguire’s organization is Jimmy’s own estranged son Mike (Joel Kinnaman), an ex-pro boxer turned limo driver who has entirely cut his criminal father out of his life and those of his young family.

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But when Mike accidentally witnesses Maguire’s recklessly ambitious, drug junkie son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) committing a murder that could cause problems for his father, Danny tries to kill Mike to silence him, forcing Jimmy to intervene and kill Danny instead. Despite his lifelong friendship with Jimmy, when an emotionally wrecked Maguire finds out about Danny’s death, he is honour-bound to seek retribution by coming after Mike, prompting Jimmy to try and keep his distant son alive long enough to find some way out of this impossible situation.

All of this gets off to a surprisingly sombre start though, as plenty of layering work is put into the characters before they all start trying to put bullets in each other’s squishy bits. And the cast all rise to the occasion, with the brotherly chemistry between Neeson’s Jimmy and Harris’ Shawn being especially touching. For the most part, Neeson is a far cry here from the omnipotent, limb-breaking Bryan Mills in the Taken films, instead offering us a tragic character who between all the car chases and gun battles can break our hearts with a glossy eyed, wistful look at his grandchildren he’s never met.

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Kinnaman once again proves that he has great potential to join the ranks of the current new breed of action heroes like Bradley Cooper and Jason Clarke who equally possess both heart and a mean right hook. Most of the fisticuffs though is left to the age-belying Neeson, who finds himself frequently going up against Common’s GQ-styled Terminator-like assassin sent by Maguire to take him out. And Collet-Sera does a fine if ultimately workmanlike job of lensing all the action – there’s certainly nothing to complain about, and it can be pretty enervating at times, but there’s no real distinguishing flair to be found.

I guess he saved all that cinematography panache for a series of flashy, digitally enhanced camera pans and flyovers that are admittedly impressive on their own, in a technically proficient, final year film student kind of way, but feel out-of-place with the grimy, polaroid-like feel of the rest of this world.

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The script by Brad Inglesby (Out of the Furnace) does a fairly good of organically building pace about as well as it surprisingly treats its characters – there are some proper themes of fatherhood, family and redemption given their due here – but is ultimately let down just a fraction by a stereotypical final showdown and a rushed epilogue that feels like it’s being hooked off stage before it can say more.

Run All Night may not be the type of movie that you’ll run all night to go see, but if you’re looking for an inoffensive, popcorn munching, technically well composed 100 minutes of diversionary entertainment, then you could certainly do a lot worse.

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Last Updated: April 17, 2015

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Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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