Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Premise: An aging hitman (Liam Neeson) must protect his son (Joel Kinnamen) when he becomes the target of a mob boss (Ed Harris).
What Works: Ever since 2008’s Taken, Liam Neeson has been a regular fixture of the action genre and nearly every year—sometimes multiple times a year—he can be seen playing the lead in a shoot-’em-up movie, usually as a troubled father figure with a deadly set of skills. Most of these movies haven’t been very good, evidenced most recently by the release of Taken 3. However, filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra had already collaborated with Neeson on two of his better projects of this type, Unknown and Non-Stop, and it’s pleasantly surprising to find that Run All Night is better than the expectations that it sets. In some respects Run All Night is closer to The Grey than it is to Taken; Neeson plays a character who is at the end of his rope and is plagued by melancholy and guilt. This is familiar character territory for Neeson but he does it well. Unlike some of his other action roles, Run All Night gives him a real part to play and there is more going on here than in the average Liam Neeson shoot-’em-up. In this story Neeson is a hit man who works for his old friend and mob boss played by Ed Harris. Harris’ character is not the typical criminal figure; he’s a guy who made his fortune selling narcotics but has graduated into a legitimate businessman and both Harris and Neeson’s characters harbor guilt over the way they’ve lived their lives. The son of Harris’ character, played by Boyd Holbrook, tries to make his own way through a new drug trade. A deal goes bad and the son of Neeson’s character, played by Joel Kinnamen, is a witness to murder. Defending his son, Neeson’s hitman kills Holbrook’s character and father and son must go on the run. This elaborate setup gives Run All Night some dramatic weight and this plays out best in the scenes between Ed Harris and Liam Neeson. Although the actors are not being asked to do anything that they haven’t done before, Harris and Neeson are old pros and they deliver some of the best moments of the film. Run All Night also has some very effective action sequences, including a standout car chase and a shootout in an apartment complex, which feature unusual camera angles and some gritty visuals.
What Doesn’t: The filmmakers of Run All Night struggle with the momentum of the picture. The opening is a bit slow but once the story comes upon its initial incident things proceed rapidly. However, the storytelling slows down again about halfway through as the film pauses to let the characters have some dramatic moments. Neeson’s character and his son have been estranged for years and they have to spend some time catching up. The film does not do much with the father-son aspect of the story; it is credible that Neeson’s character would do what he can to protect his son but the reconciliation between this hitman and his son is less convincing. There just isn’t enough substance to this part of the movie and it doesn’t accomplish enough with its characters to justify the lengthy slowdown in the middle. The troubles with momentum are also apparent in the ending. Run All Night forces a final confrontation between Liam Neeson’s character and a contract killer played by Common. This sequence seems tagged on in order to give the movie one last thrill but it is a redundant sequence and it does not make sense. At this point in the picture the central conflict has been resolved and the filmmakers are in the midst of winding down the momentum and themes of their story. This last sequence unnecessarily prolongs the movie and it spoils the more dramatic tone of reconciliation in the conclusion. The finale is satisfactorily thrilling but it is the wrong ending for the movie.
Bottom Line: Run All Night has been marketed as another Liam Neeson shoot-’em-up but this is a better movie than that. Although it is flawed, the film has some strong action sequences and better than average performances.
Episode: #534 (March 22, 2015)