The relief felt when discovering that this most generic-looking Liam Neeson action flick is the least generic-feeling of his recent output, is palpable. Run All Night proves that there is still plenty of fight left in the old dog yet.
Ageing, drunk hitman Jimmy Conlon (Neeson) has seen better days. He’s largely stuck around the criminal scene thanks to his friendship with old-school mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), but things are changing quickly. These changes can’t come soon enough for Maguire’s impatient son Danny (Boyd Holbrook), who is constantly trying to take risks to bring in more cash. Meanwhile Jimmy’s son Mike (Joel Kinnaman) is earning an honest living. He wants nothing to do with his father, whom he hasn’t seen for years, and has settled into a “normal” life with his wife and kids. Soon all their lives are about to violently collide as friendship and honour are put aside, and blood proves to be thicker than water. Can any of them make it through the night?
This is a genuinely exhilarating film. Neeson has played this character ever since Taken – and not just in the two sequels in that franchise, but in almost every film he has made since. What is different this time around though is that he is given a great script to work with, which allows him to show off his undoubted acting talents. Scene-stealer Ed Harris is superb opposite Neeson too. He brings a tremendous sense of justified outrage to the villain of the film.
The plot accelerates after Mike witnesses Danny commit a murder. Desperate to tie up loose ends, Conlon Jr becomes a target for the criminal underworld, and his father has to make the ultimate choice. In the process of which, he is forced to cross his only real friend and make a powerful enemy who will stop at nothing to kill him and his son.
There is a memorable scene where the two men square off across a restaurant table. It’s reminiscent of the highly-charged moment between Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Heat, and has just as much importance. Harris is particularly engrossing, using a dignified manner to get across his impending wrath on Neeson. Both men are on top form throughout, but this is the undeniable highlight.
Elsewhere Joel Kinnaman proves that he too has some movie presence about him, and he’s going to need it. Having starred in the already forgotten Robocop reboot last year, the bilingual Swedish star has several high-profile films on the way. As well as comic-book adaptation Suicide Squad, incidentally in the role that Tom Hardy was originally set to play, Kinnaman will also be seen in Child 44 and Knight of Cups. Here he does well playing a good guy and the audience’s point of view in a sea of murky overweight mobsters. There isn’t much room for manoeuvre in the role, but within these constraints, he shines.
Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra doesn’t have the most impressive of back catalogues. In fact, his previous films with Neeson have been underwhelming: Unknown and Non-Stop proved successful at the box-office, but critically, were largely disliked. Run All Night is a far better film than his previous works, and he is confident enough to give it all an interesting spin and take a few risks with stylistic decisions throughout.
This is a surprisingly entertaining and thrilling movie, that deserves to win back fans that have grown tired of Neeson’s gruff action man routine.