At this point, it’d be more impressive for someone to screw up an action film starring Liam Neeson.
While “Run All Night” isn’t his best — that’s a toss-up between “Taken” and “The Grey” — Neeson’s screen presence and credibility as a serious action star is all that’s necessary to make this a fun ride for fans.
Neeson reunites with his “Non-Stop (Blu-ray + DVD + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet)” Director Jaume Collet-Serra to play Jimmy Conlon, a loser estranged from his son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman, “RoboCop [Blu-ray]”).
Mike wants nothing to do with Jimmy thanks to his role as the hitman for mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris, “Snowpiercer [Blu-ray]”). Jimmy is well past his prime, but Shawn — Jimmy’s best friend since childhood — has always considered him family.
That bond is irrevocably shattered thanks to Shawn’s son, Danny, (Boyd Holbrook, “Gone Girl [Blu-ray]”), who kills some potential business partners and Mike witnesses everything. Desperate to tie up all the loose ends, Danny goes after Mike, forcing Jimmy to kill Danny to save his son. Shawn, predictably, does not take the news well and orders his men and cops on his payroll to hunt down Jimmy, Mike and Mike’s wife Gabriela (Genesis Rodriguez) and daughters.
Collet-Serra takes chances with his films, which is welcome in some instances as he provides some unique perspectives such as a manhunt through an apartment complex with the camera panning along the various floors. Other times, he gets too caught up with gimmicks such as zooming the camera from one location to the other like a video game. It’s a trick that may have been cool once or twice, but after a while, it just gets redundant.
On the plus side, the action scenes are cleanly shot so you can easily make out what’s happening. As a developing filmmaker — “Run” marks Collet-Serra’s sixth film — he shows plenty of promise provided he continues honing the balance between innovation and gimmickry for the sake of being gimmickry.
There’s some thematic elements here similar to “History of Violence, A (BD) [Blu-ray],” “Collateral” and “Road to Perdition,” but screenwriter Brad Ingelsby gets lost juggling them in what should be a straightforward action chase film. The plot bogs down in particular in the second act where the film suffers from too many starts and stops when it should be ramping up the sense of urgency.
Not surprisingly, the film is at its best when Neeson and Harris interact. After Neeson doing his one-man army killing spree bit, the lure here is watching the two face off and they deliver the compelling, complicated character interplay you’d expect.
The charming and charismatic Common (“Selma”) is wasted as an emotionless assassin trying to track down Jimmy and Mike and Vincent D’Onofrio can’t do much with his subplot as a detective trying to take down the Maguire empire.
So yeah, the film isn’t perfect, but with Neeson as the lead, it just have to be serviceable and that’s all he needs to make “Run All Night” engaging enough for an entertaining no-frills action flick.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Photo credit: Myles Aronowitz/Warner Bros. Entertainment