It’s that time of year again. The time when we put away the scarves and mittens, trade in the treadmill for a walk on the boardwalk, hard-boil some eggs and wait for that folkloric symbol of Easter to break into our home carrying baskets of pastel-colored candy. It’s also that time when we grow amazed all over again that that guy who safeguarded the Jews in Schindler’s List has been transformed into an action star. I mean seriously, do you remember when he grabbed the sword blade of that snottible Tim Roth dude with his bare hand before nearly cleaving him in half in Rob Roy? Who would have thought twenty years later he’d be wrestling grey wolves and slugging it out with Albanian sex traffickers?
In Run All, Night Liam Neeson is back to his testosterone-fueled self, this time playing Jimmy Conlon, an ex-mob enforcer who’s lost touch with his son, Mike (Joel Kinnamen). When Danny, the son of his ex-boss, botches a deal with an Albanian drug lord, Mike gets caught in the crossfire. Jimmy dusts off the ol’ six-shooter (which in these movies carry about 187 bullets) to protect his estranged boy. “I just killed your boy, Shawn. I just killed Danny,” utters a remorseful Jimmy to his old-time pal. “I’m coming after your boy with everything I’ve got,” replies Shawn. You can figure out the rest.
Though not bringing anything new or original to the old-school, tough-guy genre, Run All Night is an action-niffic movie replete with darkened alleys, cynical characters and fatalistic plotting. Neeson grabs our attention, creating a contradictory hero greater than what the thin script calls for. Ed Harris, likewise, infuses the film with an energy often missing from these types of movies.
Run All Night shares a lot with last year’s Neeson vehicle, A Walk Among the Tombstones. Both films contain a slow-moving first act, reflect the isolated feeling of big cities, and feature psychologically wounded protagonists. Both see their central characters sucked back into a world they swore to leave behind. Both feature a number of similar stylistic flourishes, notably, freeze frames and bullet time effects during major action sequences. Most importantly, both are genuinely satisfying.
If you’re looking for a movie that’s going to alter the course of cinema or add fuel to any “best of” debates, Liam Neeson has a number of them on his filmography. This is not one of them. If you’re looking for a throwback to the Charles Bronson/Steve McQueen guys of the 1960s and 1970s, Run All Night is the ticket.