Ever since Liam Neeson starred in the 2008 action movie Taken, he’s become a bona fide action hero who has now headlined a total of eight high-octane action flicks, each one unique its own ways, but unified by Neeson’s seemingly unchanging performance.
With Run All Night, Neeson continues his trend of playing the rugged killer, but does so in the special way that only he can. The movie’s plot is straightforward and simple, and follows former hit man Jimmy Conlon as he finds himself forced to protect his son from vicious mob boss Shawn Maguire, an old friend of Conlon, after there’s an accident involving Maguire’s headstrong son.
The story is far from complicated, but it actually works in the movie’s favor here, as it allows the focus to rest firmly on Conlon and his son, whose complex, often antagonistic relationship grounds the film in a very relatable way. There are very few surprises here, but I was invested from start to finish, and enjoyed the overall story a lot more than I had expected to.
No matter how hectic the action becomes, the father and son dynamic between Conlon and his son Michael, played by Joel Kinnaman, remains the defining dynamic of the film. Neeson and Kinnaman work well together, and while they’re at odds with each other for most of the story, their dialogue and overall interactions felt very real and even understandable.
Michael has every reason to hate his father, and Conlon has equally valid reasons for having turned his back on his family. They fight and argue constantly, but Neeson and Kinnaman make it work, and the audience can’t help but become more and more invested in their story the longer it goes on.
However, Run All Night is still an action movie above all else, and in this way, it does not disappoint. While the fight scenes might not be as hectic or fast-paced as they are in some of Neeson’s other works, the film revels in such an intense level of suspense that when violence inevitably breaks out, it does so in a very exciting and bombastic way.
The action relies more on build-up than it does fancy choreography, but director Jaume Collet-Serra, who has worked with Neeson on both Unknown and Non-Stop, manages the suspense very well and is able to keep things consistently interesting. While some of his camera work comes across as slightly generic, he delivers enough pay off in the action scenes to keep the audience fully invested in his movie.
Still, Run All Night is content to remain a somewhat generic action movie, and it rarely attempts to venture outside of the genre’s comfort zone. The plot is very predictable, albeit enjoyable, and while the supporting cast consists of some incredibly talented performers, very few of them are given the needed level of attention to make them stand out.
Ed Harris is one of the exceptions though, as his performance as the cold, yet vicious Shawn Maguire is immediately captivating. Harris also shares some especially great scenes with Neeson, and some of the film’s best moments come from the two of them playing off of one another.
The rest of the cast doesn’t fare as well though, as consists of Vincent D’Onofrio, who plays the token police officer, and Common, an assassin sent after Conlon, are simply stereotypes who exist more to progress the plot than to serve the overall story. They handle their material well, but there just wasn’t enough depth to make their characters even a little bit memorable.
In the end though, Run All Night is a fairly typical action movie that is able to succeed thanks to its two talented lead actors and the consistently impressive pacing and action sequences. It’s exciting, well-acted, and builds up to an extremely satisfying climax that is just as character driven as it is action packed.
This is in no way a groundbreaking movie, nor is it all that memorable in the end, but it’s still one of Neeson’s better action flicks of late, and it’s always great to see him show off his action hero skills. Run All Night is popcorn entertainment in one of the best ways, and was a blast to watch from start to finish.