Movie Review: Run All Night

Run All Night
Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra.
Written by: Brad Ingelsby.
Starring: Liam Neeson (Jimmy Conlon), Ed Harris (Shawn Maguire), Joel Kinnaman (Mike Conlon), Boyd Holbrook (Danny Maguire), Bruce McGill (Pat Mullen), Genesis Rodriguez (Gabriela Conlon), Vincent D'Onofrio (Detective Harding), Lois Smith (Margaret Conlon), Common (Andrew Price), Beau Knapp (Kenan Boyle), Patricia Kalember (Rose Maguire), Daniel Stewart Sherman (Brendan), James Martinez (Detective Oscar Torres).

Had Run All Night been made in the 1970s – by a director like William Friedkin – it may well have been a great, dark, gritty, violent thriller. It feels like that is what the movie wants to be – and had it been directed like that, it could have been great. The problem is that they hired Jaume Collet-Serra to direct, and Liam Neeson to star in the film, and the pair of them want to treat the film like the flashy, modern thrillers they have collaborated on before – Unknown (2011) and Non-Stop (2014). That’s the wrong tone for the movie, and ruins what could have been a gritty little entertainer.

In the film, Neeson stars as Jimmy Conlon – a onetime mob enforcer, now drowning himself in alcohol and regret. His childhood friend, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) is a powerful mob boss, who continue to support Jimmy. They both have adult sons – Mike (Joel Kinnaman), is Jimmy’s son, and wants nothing to do with him and his way of life, while Danny (Boyd Holbrook) is following Shawn into the business. A series of coincidences and violence, ends with Danny dead, by Jimmy`s hand, and Shawn sending his minions after both father and son, who are forced to band together, and try to survive one long night.

The film works best when it doesn’t seem to be trying very hard. The whole movie takes place at night, and the visual look mirrors the darkness of the themes of violence passed down from one generation to the next. This is the type of thing that has been done in countless crime movies before this one – but it’s been done that often, because it works. When the film calms down, and simply allows Jimmy and Shawn – and to a lesser extent Mike – just be themselves.

The film missteps though in the action sequences. The action sequences take what is otherwise a dark thriller, and puts a high gloss sheen on them that doesn’t work. Not only that, but Jimmy, who has been setup to be rather pathetic, a shell of his former self, all of a sudden turned into the Neeson of the Taken movies.

Run All Night would have been smart to take its lead from last year`s indie, revenge drama Blue Ruin – Jeremy Saulnier`s brilliant, violent film where the violence comes on suddenly, is bloody, but also clumsy. What they do instead, is stage them like a typical action movie, and it simply doesn’t work.

There have been a lot of jokes about Neeson, the action star, in the last few years – many of them are deserved, as the Taken movies, along with Unknown and Non-Stop are pretty bad. But there have been some gems as well – like Joe Caranhan’s The Grey, about Neeson and wolves, or last years A Walk Among the Tombstones, by Scott Frank. Had one of them directed Run All Night, I have a feeling the film could have been wonderful. In the hands of Collet-Serra, it becomes yet another film where Neeson shows off his very special skills.

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