“RUN ALL NIGHT” is yet another loud testosterone fueled Liam Neeson high body count carnage-fest. But unlike the second and third “Taken’s” this one has a trace more of an idea that holds it together better and at least offers some glimpse of the acting chops that we remember about Liam Neeson the once great actor (Remember “Schindler’s List”?), now in hiding from Liam Neeson the action star.
The story is about the lengths a ‘real man’ has to go to protect his family (women are largely an afterthought in this film). Liam is Jimmy Conlon, aka “the Gravedigger”, a retired mob enforcer. He’s seeking to protect his son, Michael (Swedish actor Joel Kinnaman of “RoboCop” and “The Killing” fame) – both from a vengeance obsessed Sean McGuire (Ed Harris), Jimmy’s ex boss and mob leader, and also from ever slipping into a world on the wrong side of the law. Michael himself is seeking to protect his family both from McGuire’s storm troopers as well as from any influence his disreputable, brooding, drunk, ex hit-man father may potentially exert over his young daughters.
But things have gone sour. Both men have gone straight. Alas, McGuire’s criminal DNA has been passed on to his wild, irresponsible son (Boyd Holbrook from “Gone Girl” and also from Liam’s last action flick, “A Walk Among the Tombstones”). The son has gotten involved with a gang of Albanian drug traffickers; all to prove his mettle to dad.
Well, it’s a small world and before you know it, young McGuire is gunning for Michael who’s witnessed his murder of the Albanians. Fortunately, and not for the last time, Jimmy (Liam) arrives just in time to protect Michael by killing the young McGuire.
Two fathers bound together in blood with two sons, one of whom is now dead.
Personally I’d have shot the son in the kneecaps or something. But Jimmy shoots him in the neck, fesses up to the killing to his ex mob boss friend (beneath the villainy and murder that marked his past, he’s a loyal and essentially honest friend) and now, what with McGuire and an army of thugs, not to mention a professional hit man (Common, who did the Oscar winning song from “Selma”) after them, he and son must… run all night.
And shoot everyone in sight.
Neeson has charisma and screen presence to spare. So that even at its most ludicrously improbable, he still manages to inject enough empathy and humanity into a stock character for us to give a damn. And stock character it certainly is: it ticks all the boxes of the faux Hollywood personality traits that are employed in (what seems like all of…) Liam’s recent movies. This particular character, Jimmy, isn’t that much of a stretch. He’s ‘done’ the brooding drunk type before. You no doubt remember that he was also a drunk, washed-up, has-been in “Non Stop” (the one where he was an ex cop on a transatlantic flight with a killer on the loose) or when he was a recovering alcoholic and also an ex-cop in “A Walk Among the Tombstones” (the one where he’s also fighting the mob). He’s one of a long list of drunks reluctantly driven to flights of heroism headlined of course by Bruce Willis’ John McClane.
Perhaps the 4A’s should incorporate vigilantism and revenge as part of its 10 step formula, as it certainly works well. You need a steady hand to fire a gun on the run.
The director is Spaniard, Jaume Collet-Serra who has clearly learned a lot from the Michael Mann/Tony Scott genre of high concept action. “Run All Night” like his previous outing “Non-Stop” is fast, taut, exciting and what with all that running, quite exhausting.
And after a long day at the office, a couple of hours watching Liam recover from an alcoholic stupor to take out every bad guy in a dark and grungy New York is almost as good as a martini (though not quite)