Starring: Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Ed Harris, Vincent D’Onofrio, Genesis Rodriguez, Boyd Holbrok
Rated R for Strong Violence, Language including Sexual References, and Some Drug Use
“Run All Night” is more than it seems to be. Much more, in fact. Although it kind of sounds like “Taken” meets “The Warriors,” the film is more concerned with the ties that bind us, be it fathers and sons or between friends, than gratuitous violence. That said, there is plenty of bone-crunching brutality for those sick of superheroes and tween franchises.
Jimmy Conlon (Neeson) has been working as a hit man for local mobster Shawn Maguire (Harris) for decades. Perhaps it is because Shawn has most of the police on his payroll that Detective Harding (D’Onofrio) hasn’t been able to thrown Jimmy in prison for the rest of his life. As a result of his occupation, not to mention abandoning him at an early age, Jimmy is estranged from his son Michael (Kinnaman). Maguire, on the other hand, is close to his son Danny (Holbrook), although their relationship isn’t any more healthy (despite Danny’s attempts to impress him, Shawn views him with disdain). In an attempt to prove himself, Danny attempts to negotiate a deal with a pair of drug dealers, although this goes up in flames. Michael, a limo driver, is a witness to Danny brutally murdering them, which puts him in the sights of the coked-up Danny. Before Shawn can smooth things over, Jimmy kills Danny in self-defense. Shawn swears revenge, and now Michael must rely on his distant father to keep himself and his family alive.
While not as developed as one would hope, it is clear that Jaume Collet-Sera, a young director who shows talent and versatility with each new film he makes, has higher ambitions than a simple adrenaline cocktail. He occasionally takes time to explore the relationships between the characters, although sometimes the visual style is too energetic for it to have the dramatic impact that it could. Like with the unfortunate “Blood Ties,” I kept thinking that this would have been a perfect film for Martin Scorcese. The themes of Catholic guilt, the Irish blue collar mobster setting, and the uncensored violence (the film deserves its R rating for once) are all trademarks of his. Still, this is an excellent movie in its own right, and for that I am entirely satisfied.
The performances are solid. Liam Neeson is the go-to guy for the beaten down, alcoholic killer role, but he seems bored. He needs to do something else to get out of the cliché he has become typecast in. That said, there is a scene where he plays Santa while extremely intoxicated. I don’t know if the filmmakers intended for it to be as funny as it was, but it’s a riot. My guess is yes, but regardless, it’s totally worth it. His co-star, Joel Kinnaman, has never particularly impressed me with his acting ability, having relied on his good looks and charisma in the past. He has a few hiccups, but overall it’s a solid performance. Ed Harris leads the trio as Shawn. Harris has always been able to be counted on to give a terrific performance, but he hasn’t had this good of a role in years. Boyd Holbrook does an excellent job of portraying a total nutcase, and Vincent D’Onofrio is edging closer and closer to forgiveness for playing Detective Goren on "Law and Order: Criminal Intent," the second most irritating character in history (after, of course, Enid from “Ghost World”).
There are flaws with this movie. I would have liked it better had the script been stronger, and Collet-Serra taken more time nurturing these relationships. There were definitely times when I could feel that there was more dramatic power itching to get out. And there is one instance where a character makes a stupid mistake just so there can be another action scene, which includes an unexplained twist. That said, this film does contain some real drama and is packed with adrenaline. So it gets a very enthusiastic recommendation from me.