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Run All Night

March 13, 2015
Run All Night

Coming just a couple months after Liam Neeson’s third Taken movie under Olivier Megaton, the jokes about “Taken 4” are probably to be expected, but Run All Night is a different kind of movie altogether. Yes, it’s Neeson in an action part, which people somehow find amusing in and of itself despite the fact that he’s been doing action his entire career, long before you saw him in Schindler’s List.

In fact, Run All Night is Neeson’s third collaboration with Jaume Collet-Serra, after Unknown and Non-Stop. And, like these two films, it’s a much smarter piece than Megaton’s series. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really have much new to say.

Instead of using a plane for a locked-room mystery, or an amnesiac in foreign lands, we’ve got yet another Irish-inflected gangland story. Sure, the other two premises aren’t completely original, but they haven’t been nearly so mined to death already. If you’ve got to pick your way around heavyweights like Miller’s Crossing, The Boondock Saints, Road to Perdition, and The Departed, you’d better bring your A game, and this just isn’t it.

We hit all the usual notes, starting with long family ties. Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) and Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) go way back. They grew up together as childhood friends in New York City, but things went sideways somewhere along the way.

Shawn’s a big kingpin who’s moved on from bankrolling local businesses for a cut to being a legitimate businessman in his own right. Or at least that’s what he claims when his douchebag son, Danny (Boyd Holbrook), tries to set up a multi-million dollar drug buy. When Shawn squelches that, the sellers want the money they fronted Danny back, and he decides that the best course of action is to get really high and kill them.

The catch is that their driver, waiting outside in the limo, just happens to see Danny shooting one of the guys who tried to escape. And that driver just happens to be Jimmy’s son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman). And before Jimmy was a slobbering, guilt-ridden drunk (check another genre point), estranged from his only son (check), he was the best hit man in Shawn’s gang (check). So Shawn asks Jimmy to convince Mike to keep quiet about Danny, but Danny — ever the idiot Danny — shows up to try to kill Mike just as Jimmy sobers up enough to kill Danny instead.

So now Shawn wants three separate kinds of revenge on Jimmy and Mike, despite knowing and admitting that it’s all Danny’s stupid fault to begin with, and hey, isn’t this starting to sound a lot like John Wick? Man, that was a good movie. It’s never a good sign when memories of how great another movie was interrupt you while watching this one.

As Jimmy tries to keep Mike and his family safe through his long dark night of the soul (check), there are a few set pieces that are actually pretty tight. There’s a nice urban car chase sequence, and a game of hide-and-seek with a high-tech assassin (Common, the rapper and actor; I’m not saying this is a customary genre trope) in a housing project. Individually, these sections stand out and remind us how good Collet-Serra can be, but the story — by Brad Ingelsby, who did better with similar material in Out of the Furnace — just feels like a shallow retread of better New York and Boston Irish gangland fare.

But still, it’s better than Megaton and Taken, and I’ll at least defend Run All Night from that slander.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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