There are several common threads that run through amost every Liam Neeson film so that you know what to expect. Since the always likable Irishman redefined himself with 2008’s “Taken”, he has become a bona fide action star. Armed with his signature gravelly voice, some clever one-liners, and particular sets of skills, Neeson has created his own unique brand of action movie and audiences normally have an idea of what they are going to get.
But sometimes Neeson adds a twist – something different to his successful formula. We get an example of that in “Run All Night”, a crime thriller from Spanish director and frequent Neeson collaborator Jaume Collet-Serra. Set (mostly) over the course of one night and spanning across a night-lit New York City, the film is a fast paced, high stakes game of cat and mouse laced with an assortment of complicated relationships.
One of the differences from other Neeson pictures is that his character isn’t what you would call a ‘good guy’. He plays Jimmy Conlon, a former mob hitman who was given the nickname “Gravedigger” (now that just screams bad news). Jimmy is struggling with the sins of his past which cost him his relationship with his son Mike (Joel Kinnaman). Mike is now married with children and he mentors fatherless boys at a local gym while also driving a limo at night for extra money.
Jimmy’s only friend is his former boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). Shawn has adapted his criminal organization to the times but his cocky and careless son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) is a loose cannon. When a deal goes bad, Danny murders some Albanian drug dealers and Mike witnesses the crime. Danny sets out to take care of the witness but Jimmy kills him in order to save his son. An angry and grief-stricken Shawn sends his army of thugs and crooked cops to kill Jimmy and Mike before the night is over.
The story puts Jimmy and Mike together with their very lives on the line. But that brings along a very interesting dynamic. The two must navigate the animosity from a broken relationship just as much as the numerous dangers Shawn sends their way. This little father/son angle adds some cool elements to the story but it also results in a couple of odd plot twists that defied common sense. Plus it leads to an obvious ending that you see coming a mile away.
Despite that, “Run All Night” is a fun crime thriller that jets along at a nice pace and keeps you entertained. There is some good action and real intensity yet very little in terms of surprises. But perhaps the most fun comes from watching Neeson and Harris, two always reliable and enjoyable actors squeeze every bit out of their roles. This is an edgier Neeson picture and it does differentiate itself a bit from his action catalogue. Maybe not enough to make it something truly special, but I still appreciated its effort.
VERDICT – 3.5 STARS