Virtually everyone had the same exact thought when the trailer for “Run All Night” hit: “Isn’t this the same exact movie Liam Neeson’s been making for the past seven years?” The short answer is basically yes. Jaume Collet-Serra previously directed the serious actor turned action hero in “Unknown,” which came close to being decent, and “Non-Stop,” which was decent enough to check out. “Run All Night” falls somewhere in the middle of those two flicks, putting it just on the fence. Whether or not you enjoy the film will come down to how much you enjoy seeing Neeson shoot up bad guys, grumble his lines, and run for his life.
Neeson plays Jimmy Conlon, a veteran hitman who’s spent a majority of his life at the bottom of a bottle. He works for Ed Harris’ Shawn Maguire, a mobster that wants to go legit. This becomes progressively difficult when Shawn’s son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) gets on the bad side of a powerful drug lord. Danny kills the rival gangster, but Jimmy’s estranged son Mike (Joel Kinnaman), catches him in the act. To protect Mike, Jimmy is forced to kill Danny. Now Shawn is hell-bent on spilling Jimmy and Mike’s blood, even if it takes all night.
While Neeson can essentially do this role in his sleep, “Run All Night” mainly works because he was a proper supporting cast to work off of. The father/son animosity between Jimmy and Mike has been done in numerous other films like “A Good Day to Die Hard.” Mike wants nothing to do with his deadbeat dad, constantly calling him by his first name. By the film’s conclusion, though, how much do you want to bet Mike will come to recognize Jimmy as a father again? Yet, the actors still do a solid job at conveying a complex and convincing relationship with strong chemistry.
Harris is equally effective as a brokenhearted father who’s blinded by vengeance, but empathizes with Jimmy’s need to protect his boy. We also get some good work from Vincent D’Onofrio as the only honest cop in New York and Common steals the show as a hitman that always gets the job done. A few characters are almost randomly thrown in the mix, however, most notably a very haggard Nick Nolte as Jimmy’s brother. Other characters are just there to move the plot along, like Aubrey Joseph as a street kid who pops up when it’s most convenient.
The action sequences are fun for the most part, although sometimes evoke déjà vu. How many other action set pieces have taken place in burning buildings and rail yards? As for the story going on between all those chases and shootouts, you know what’s going to happen. Even if you’ve never seen a movie like this before, the obvious foreshadowing sets everything up like bowling pins. To buy into the plot, you really need to overlook some unbelievable coincidences that are farfetched even by thriller standards.
For all of its faults, though, there is a passable movie here about the bond between fathers, sons, and family. If you’re officially Neesoned out and want to see him go back to making more ambitious pictures, you can skip this one. If you’re on board for a little more Neeson action, “Run All Night” will satisfy with competent performances, direction, and action. Plus, at the very least, it is better than either of the “Taken” sequels.
Nick Spake is a graduate of Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for the past ten years, reviewing movies on his website, NickPicksFlicks.com.