Does Liam Neeson in fact run all night in Run All Night? Technically, no, but it sure is a fun run for the audience. In fact, the best moments in the new thriller starring Neeson as a Brooklyn mob hit man are when it is at its quietest. The scenes where two acting titans share time together, Neeson and Ed Harris, are pure power.
In Run All Night, Neeson is Jimmy Conlon, a man who has known Harris’ mob boss Shawn Maguire since they were kids running the wild streets of the New York City borough. That fact comes through with these fine actors, who seem to be having a ball playing old buds. That’s what makes what drives a violent wedge between these two all the more potent.
We learn from flashbacks and through exposition delivered with panache by Homicide Detective Harding (Vincent D’Onofrio), who has been trying to get Jimmy behind bars for decades, that when Shawn needs something taken care of, Jimmy makes the problem disappear. Neeson’s character is responsible for dozens of deaths. But he doesn’t do that anymore and Shawn has moved into more legitimate businesses.
Meanwhile, Shawn’s son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) has followed in his father’s illegal footsteps and winds up in serious trouble with the Albanian mob. See, his mess becomes Shawn’s mess, and that in turn becomes Jimmy’s mess -- specifically his son Mike (a stellar Joel Kinnaman). When Jimmy’s son and his family (including Genesis Rodriguez as his wife) are threatened, the former hit man goes back to his old bag of tricks.
And it sets up a kill or be killed confrontation with his old boss, and lifelong friend.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra reunites with Neeson after their work on Non-Stop. Run All Night is a much better film and not to take anything away from the mid-air thriller, but there’s something about the landscape of New York City that fits Collet-Serra perfectly. The way he intercuts between different parts of the city truly puts the audience firmly in the middle of this story that at its heart is really about fathers and sons and the difficulty that can be found in those most unique of relationships.
Collet-Serra’s cinematic style is also a huge selling point here. New York looks beautiful and painted like the modern city it is, all while still having those underbelly aspects that find this old school mob-centric story. The director also gets the most out of his actors from a script that gets a tad thin at points.
The chemistry between Kinnaman and Neeson is what also drives the film. Their characters haven’t spoken for years and there are massive amounts of resentment from Mike towards Jimmy. But on this night, his father is the only thing that can keep him alive until this entire mess is fixed. Throughout their time, in between jaw-dropping action sequences involving mobsters, dirty cops and old friends alike, the two “bond,” as best as they can. These two actors are impeccably cast and as good as Harris and Neeson are, so too are Kinnaman and Neeson.
Our Run All Night review finds that the film is a much better and more emotionally powerful thriller than Non-Stop. But it is not quite as hard-hitting as what you see when you watch A Walk Among the Tombstones online, if we’re comparing Neeson’s recent work as an action star.
It is amazing he keeps finding these scripts that fit him like a glove. They still contain action sequences that work with his age, work with his skill set and still operate on other levels than just people seeking or extolling justice.
There was talk that Neeson would only do action movies for two more years. With what we see in Run All Night, we hope that is not the case.