March 12, 2015

Run All Night

I think we missed the early bird special

Run All Night
Grade: C +
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman, Common, Boyd Holbrook and Vincent D’Onofrio
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hr. 54 min.

In Run All Night, Liam Neeson plays a father thrust into protecting his child from harm threatened by a criminal syndicate. Novel concept, huh?

Yes, Neeson is another man with a particular set of skills, in this case Jimmy Conlan, an aging ex-mob hitman now subsisting off booze and the charity of Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), head of an Irish crime boss in Queens and Jimmy’s old pal-cum-boss.

Taking place over a 16-hour period, Jimmy and Shawn’s pledge to one day “cross the finish line” together assumes a different meaning when Michael (Joel Kinnaman), Jimmy’s estranged son, spies Shawn’s bad-seed son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) rub out some Albanian drug traffickers. When Danny hastily tries to eliminate his witness, Jimmy is forced to protect Michael by putting a bullet through Danny’s neck.

Shawn vows vengeance against both father and son, so Jimmy must kill as many people as possible over a single night to buy Michael time to escape the city and Det. John Harding (Vincent D’Onofrio), the proverbial “last honest cop,” time to clear Michael’s name, even though Harding wants nothing more than to see Jimmy rot in prison for all the buttons he’s pushed over the years. Along the way, Jimmy must navigate an obstacle course of mob heavies, crooked cops and a professional assassin (Common) who would love to off Jimmy for free.

Run All Night falls squarely in the post-Taken period of Neeson’s film career. Director Jaume Collet-Serra has been a key collaborator, helming Neeson’s Unknown and last year’s Non-Stop before this film. There’s little new here, beginning with several obvious riffs from The Godfather and Michael Mann’s Heat. People hide out where any sensible foe would look, and Jimmy/Michael’s ability to elude all pursuers (and their bullets) strains even the most pliable bounds of credibility.

Stylistically, the overlong narrative is padded with a few too many firefights, chases and stare-downs. Cinematographer Martin Ruhe adopts an irksome Google Earth pan-and-zoom technique whenever the locale shifts between scenes, and composer Junkie XL bombards the audience with a cacophony of blaring brass.

Still, the pace is brisk and occasionally exhilarating, while the milieu is steeped in gritty pulp. But the undoubted high points are the recurring  tête–à–têtes between Neeson and Harris, old pros in life and art who relish their hardboiled byplay. Better use of Nick Nolte, who wanders through as Jimmy’s brother, and a virtually silent Bruce McGill, who plays Shawn’s leftenant, would have only heightened the film’s grizzled vet cachet.

As it stands, Run All Night is a serviceable B-movie, full of action, ammunition and family angst for flavor. While Neeson’s movie children are forever in peril, his film career remains safe and sound.

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