Who am I to begrudge Liam Neeson for creating his own movie genre? Starting with 2008’s Taken, “Liam Neeson Movie” has come to mean anything starring Neeson as an older, haggard guy single-handedly dispatching the opposition. Some have been good (A Walk Among the Tombstones, The Grey), and some haven’t worked as well (Non-Stop, Unknown), but he’s never failed to turn in a quality performance along the way. So there’s that.
Neeson’s latest is Run All Night, a dark, gritty shoot-out flick with a body count higher than the number of wrinkles on Neeson’s 62-year-old face. And while the film doesn’t quite match the level of, say, Taken, it still largely accomplishes what it sets out to do.
Neeson is Jimmy Conlon, a former hitman for his longtime compadre, Brooklyn kingpin Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). After one of the more needlessly convoluted set-ups in recent movie memory, Jimmy shoots and kills his old friend’s son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) to keep Danny from shooting Jimmy’s estranged son Mike (Joel Kinnaman). So Shawn calls out the troops, which include the usual assortment of thugs, toughs, and corrupt cops, for a little revenge.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who also helmed those two “haven’t worked as well” Neeson films I mentioned above, does a generally decent job with Run All Night. Set over the course of one, long evening, it whisks us from borough to borough, through rainstorms and car chases and high-rise manhunts– though I could have done without all the swooping (and distracting) “let’s quickly get from one side of Manhattan to the other” shots. Collet-Serra does know how to ramp up the tension, though, and the pace moves briskly for the most part– only getting bogged down when Jimmy and Mike start the process of (sniff) reconnecting as father and son.
Neeson and Harris are both solid in the lead roles, and their raw performances help offset the fact that every single character is horribly unlikable. It’s hard to root for someone when they don’t have a redeemable trait to speak of– but Neeson and Harris fight through the script to make it happen.
In the end, Run All Night doesn’t really do anything to set itself apart from any other Liam Neeson Movie, but we’re not talking Schindler’s List or Rob Roy here– those are what used to be Liam Neeson Movies.