Liam Neeson is now known as the older man action star, mostly thanks to the surprise hit Taken. He seems to be getting all of these similar roles, not hard to see why because he suits them pretty well and he pulls off being a badass. With Run All Night, Neeson re-teams with the director of Unbroken and Non-Stop, Jaume Collet-Serra in what is the best of the three. This is a gritty crime/action film, while over the top, it still remains fairly enjoyable.
Neeson plays Jimmy a mob hitman who worked for his childhood friend Shawn (Ed Harris). When Shawn’s son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) gets himself into trouble, and Jimmy’s estranged son Michael (Joel Kinnaman) witnesses Danny killing someone, things go from bad to worse. Convinced he has to take care of matters himself, Danny goes off to kill Michael, but instead he gets killed by Jimmy. This sets off a chain of events, which pits Jimmy against Shawn and revenge runs wild.
The first part of the film sets up the characters, we get the idea of who Jimmy is and what he has done. It isn’t difficult to figure out he was Shawn’s hitman, and he’s done a lot of things he regrets. This life is why Jimmy is estranged from his son, who he wanted to keep away to keep him safe from the life. Shawn clearly respects his friend Jimmy and wants his own son Danny to pull his own weight and stop stuffing up. Despite this he loves his son, and his death isn’t something he’ll let go unpunished. Michael is a family man, just doing what he can to provide for his wife and kids and running a boxing program to help kids in the town.
With Danny doing something stupid and others getting pulled it, it is easy to see where the film is headed. Despite being friends all their lives this one event will have Shawn seeking revenge and Jimmy not accepting that his own son (who isn’t a criminal) should die for it. The plot is fine, there is nothing wrong with a good old fashioned mob revenge action film. But where it gets me is that so many innocent people end up being collateral damage. That takes a lot for me to get invested and care, not so much that other mobsters/criminals get killed, they aren’t innocent. It gets even crazier when another hitman Andrew Price (Common) gets involved, he just kills anyone who is in his way. This kind of thing just gets really crazy, to be honest a smaller body count would have been more affective.
The stronger parts here are the cast, Liam Neeson is as usual fairly good. Here he isn’t a good guy, he is a bad guy, he killed people for a living. So this is a little different for him, and he tries to redeem himself by protecting his son. He does all he can for him, even making a deal with a Detective (Vincent D’Onofrio) who has been after him for 25 years to ensure Michael is safe. Ed Harris wasn’t too bad, some moments he had were a little laughable but he pulled things off where he really needed to. The real star in my opinion and the one who shone a light brighter here than in the Robocop remake was Joel Kinnaman. I felt he brought a lot to the film, he played the character as best he could, and the way his relationship grew with Jimmy over the course of a night was believable thanks to his performance. He is definitely growing on me as an actor. Now while I thought Andrew Price was a bit of a ridiculous character, he is played really well by Common, a cold hearted man who does whatever to get the job done.
Run All Night isn’t a ground breaking film by any means, it serves to entertain and for the most part I was. Jaume Collet-Serra still feels like an amateur director, but this was a step up from Non-Stop. I am sure there is a really good film in him, he just needs to take a step back and really tap into it.