I don’t know about anyone else, but it still kind of surprises me that the most successful action star working today just happens to be Liam Neeson. Even though he has been beloved and critically acclaimed Oscar nominated actor for over 30 years now, but it wasn’t until the surprisingly smash hit 2008 action film TAKEN that his career took a different turn that we as an audience didn’t expect: Liam Neeson, the action star (although you could argue, it was only matter of time before it did). Ever since that film, Neeson worked quite consistently in the genre and, regardless of their overall quality, has delivered many more other hit action films. Now he is back with his latest actioner RUN ALL NIGHT, which he reteams for the third time with Jaume Collet-Serra (the director behind two other Neeson action films UNKNOWN and NON-STOP). So how does this one compare to all the other ones he’s been in? Read on and I’ll tell you!
The film tells the story of Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson), an ageing hard-drinking mob hitman who is haunted by the deaths of the people he has killed and as well as his estrangement from his son Mike (Joel Kinnaman), who he hasn’t seen in a few years. The only good thing that is happening in Jimmy’s life these days, is his friendship with his childhood best friend and mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). However one night things change when Mike witnesses Shawn’s out-of-control son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) kill a group of men in cold blood. Just as Danny is about to shoot Michael, Jimmy arrives in time and kills Danny. When he finds out that his son is dead, Shawn vows to take revenge on both Jimmy and Mike. Knowing that he has to protect Mike and his family at all costs, Jimmy tries to help them to survive the night. However things get really difficult when they are being hunted down by the mob, crooked cops and assassins.
When I first heard of the premise to this film, it definitely sounded like something that would be right up my alley in terms of action films that I like. So I was very excited to see it. But at the same time, I also knew that there was a possibility that it could end up being a disappointment (with a premise as simple as this one has, is very easy for the filmmakers to stuff it up). Now having seen the film itself, I’m happy to report that the film managed to live my expectations for it. I thought that this was a compelling and riveting action film that I found to be highly entertaining from beginning to end. I have to say of the three films that Liam Neeson and Jaume Collet-Serra have made so far, this one is definitely their best one. Don’t get me wrong while I really liked and had a lot of fun with both UNKNOWN and NON-STOP, but what I think makes RUN ALL NIGHT better is that it has a much more dramatic weight to it than those films did. While Neeson does in fact deliver once again at being a total bad arse, but his role of “Jimmy” has some a lot more substance to him that gives Neeson a more three-dimensional character to play with (sure it’s a role that Neeson can play sleep, but he still acts the hell out of it nonetheless). Director Collet-Serra and his screenwriter Brad Ingelsby (who also wrote OUT OF THE FURNACE and as well as the upcoming U.S. remake of THE RAID) both successfully created an action film that not only entertains, but also a serious approach to it that makes it more engaging (the film’s tone reminded me a lot of last year’s underrated action film THE EQUALIZER). Collet-Serra does a really good job here with his direction. While it definitely not as visually stylish as his previous films, but instead takes a much more grittier approach to it that I felt was appropriate to the material (however he still does delivered some rather stylised moments throughout the film too).
However I would definitely would say that the key element that made the film work for me, would be the relationship between Liam Neeson and Joel Kinnaman’s characters “Jimmy” & “Mike” (which is definitely the film’s main driving force). Their scenes together were really strong and they give us an insight into the complicated history between these two characters rather effectively (although there is some occasional dialogue in these scenes that I did find a bit contrived and forced at times). Kinnaman in particular did a really good job at conveying his character’s resentment to towards “Jimmy” in a very believable way. Also most of the supporting cast do were all solid in their roles as well, but the stand outs were definitely Ed Harris and Common. While he could have easily have just phoned it in with his character of “Shawn Maguire”, but luckily Harris gives a great performance and he brought a lot of gravitas to the role that made his character more compelling. Actually the scenes between him and Neeson were some of my favourite scenes in the whole film (particularly the restaurant scene, which I thought was both riveting and intense). Another supporting performance I really enjoyed was Common’s role as a contract killer named “Mr. Price”, who I thought made for a rather effective and intimidating villain. Plus the cinematography was both gritting and stylish, the score by Junkie XL was terrific and the action set pieces were all extremely well done and thrilling.
Now even though there were a lot of things that I liked about the film, I will admit that there were some aspects that didn’t quite work for me. First up while I did think that Brad Ingelsby’s script was quite solid, but it is quite predictable and it doesn’t really add anything that we haven’t seen other action films before. While that didn’t bother me too much and it was fine but still, I felt that it would have been good if the filmmakers brought something new to the table or were a bit more daring with their story (especially since Collet-Serra has a reputation of taking on films that have pretty high-concept premises or just being completely bat shit insane. You only have to look at his previous films to see what I mean). Also I did feel that some members of the supporting cast weren’t given much to do (Nick Nolte is completely wasted in his role, which was basically a glorified cameo, and Genesis Rodriguez was underused in her role as “Mike’s” wife “Gabriela”). Plus there was a flashback sequence that delved into a bit of the back story of Neeson’s character that I thought was awkwardly done.
Overall while RUN ALL NIGHT may not be the greatest action film that you have seen recently, but I still it was still a compelling and action-packed film that I had a great time with nonetheless. If you are a big fan of action films or Liam Neeson (particularly when he beats the crap out of bad guys from left-to-right), I definitely recommend checking this film out for sure.
– Bede Jermyn