For better or worse Liam Neeson has essentially become the Charles Bronson of the 21st century. No longer the brooding performer from fare like Schindler’s List, Neeson’s action quota is generally either the Taken films or features courtesy of Jaume Collet-Sera. It’s safe to say the Taken films have dwindled in quality over their run, but his work with Collet-Sera has seemed to improve with each round. With their first two collaborations being a bit more on the goofy side of things, 2011’s Unknown and last year’s ridiculous but ever-so-fun Non-Stop, Run All Night attempts to shake things up with a darker undercurrent, merging Neeson’s staple action sequences with an underground gangster story.
Though not as entertaining as their previous aforementioned collaborations, Run All Night stands as their most sophisticated with Neeson finally seeming to act his age, his character Jimmy highly aware of his own morality as he faces old-friend-come-mob-boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) when he takes out Shawn’s son (Boyd Holbrook) in a home invasion that threatened his own spawn, Mike (Joel Kinnaman). As with the Taken films Neeson is no stranger to playing the doting father, doing whatever he can to protect his own, and here is no exception with Jimmy going to the greatest of lengths for the wellbeing of Mike. As the boldly truthful son, Kinnaman is saddled with his strongest American part to date (the Swedish born actor previously on the cusp of breaking out in the poorly- received Robocop remake) and the relationship between him and Neeson remains believably cold throughout; the film thankfully never bogging their bond down in faux sentimentality, even towards the climax which threatens a possible happy ending.
Playing with the New York City landscape, Collet-Sera has a vast canvas to stage a variety of lengthy car chases, on-foot pursuits, and combat sequences – all of which fail to deliver anything we haven’t seen before – but the film’s kinetic editing sadly results in these scenes coming off as both dull and overly frantic. The film also isn’t helped by the inclusion of the seemingly indestructible hitman Price (Common) whose half-burned facial features come off as far-too cartoonish for the overall feature. The cast is impressive though with the added likes of Vincent D’Onofrio, Genesis Rodriguez and a bizarre Nick Nolte all making appearances throughout that help elevate Run All Night above the 90’s action movie it essentially is.
I always enjoy seeing Liam Neeson in aging smack-down mode, and Run All Night is at least miles ahead of the last two Taken sequels, but he seems to be taking proceedings here a little too seriously for it to be a truly fun escapist ride – something Non-Stop achieved in spades. Though last year’s John Wick achieved this film’s plot to a more successful degree, Neeson’s turn as an action hero is still a pleasure to watch on screen and, as grumpy as he may appear, he seems to be enjoying this new-found career turn which we can only hope extends its mileage into the near-future.
Review score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 114 minutes
Run All Night is screening in Australian cinemas from 19th March 2015 through Roadshow Films and Warner Bros Pictures