“Run All Night” Movie Review

     The title, “Run All Night”, essentially tells you all you need to know about Liam Neeson’s latest action film directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously teamed up with the actor for “Non-Stop” and “Unknown”.  By now we are all well aware Neeson has reinvented himself in his late 50s and now early 60s as an action star with “a particular set of skills” courtesy of his wildly successful “Taken” franchise.  The result of that success normally comes in the way of these smaller, less heralded, films where he basically plays the same character over and over with only a minor change in the setting.  Bottom line, he’s a guy who kills people and continues to do his job very well.  “Run All Night” is more of the same, but this time the setting is in the world of New York mob types and organized crime. 

     Mob movies should not be action movies, as the people who die in these films need to marinate for a little while as a character.  When you have two characters that are from the old school, such as hit man Jimmy Conlon (Neeson) and mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), the conflict between them is best viewed as more of a slow burn, rather than concocting long and enduring car chases and unrealistic shoot outs.  The dialogue is what should begin to build the suspense and any violence should be more surprising, instead of playing out in your typical “kill them all” action film trope.  “Run All Night” is all about the later, spending very little time convincing the audience that we should care who lives and who dies and settles for one action set piece after another in order to allow the leading man to keep his reputation intact.  After all, his nickname in this one is the “Grave Digger.”

     Shawn, at his advancing age, claims to have learned a thing or two about business.  That’s why when his hot head son, Danny (Boyd Holbrook), comes to him with a business proposition that involves getting into bed with an Armenian drug gang, he calmly tells his son and the accompanying thug he’s not interested.  Problem is, Danny already took an advance from the Armenians and now they want their money back.  When a confrontation ends in murder and an unsuspecting limo driver is in the wrong place at the wrong time and witnesses Danny pulling the trigger, the situation quickly escalates when the driver turns out to be Mike Conlon (Joel Kinnaman), Jimmy’s son.  Of course, this knowledge does nothing to sway a coked out and irrational Danny who goes after Mike anyway.  When Jimmy intervenes, he’s put in an impossible situation that results in him gunning Danny down, forcing him to call his boss and tell him what he’s done and why.

     In the blink of an eye, Shawn goes from Jimmy’s most loyal supporter to telling him he’s coming after him and his son, setting up an endless showdown that takes, well, all night.  As you may guess, this means endless waves of mob types, hired guns, and hit men hunting Jimmy and his son, giving him plenty of guys to beat up and kill.  To Collet-Serra’s credit, he resists portraying Jimmy as a marital arts expert this time and opts simply to use down and dirty techniques such as punches, knees, head butts, and when that fails, bullets.  Strangely enough, I almost felt as though screenwriter Brad Ingelsby (“Out of the Furnace”) may have taken a few too many cues from Michael Mann’s “Heat” while writing what I’m sure he hoped would be his own masterful crime epic.  A restaurant scene is staged between Shawn and Jimmy in the middle of the film, just after a massive car chase and before another major action set piece in a burning high rise.  It’s as if these two professionals, just as Pacino and De Niro did, are being given the opportunity through dialogue to lay down how things are going to go, but of course this encounter has none of the bravado the screenwriter likely intended.  Later in the obligatory showdown, the two characters find themselves in a cat and mouse gun battle similar to the one at the end of “Heat”, but taking place in a rail yard instead of an airport runway.

     This is the kind of story that would’ve played better, even with the same actors, if it were conceived more along the lines of last year’s James Gandolfini film “The Drop” in which the characters and their nefarious deeds are portrayed in a much more realistic fashion.  The characters here needed to be more moody and given the scenes to be more dramatic.  Instead, Collet-Serra stages sequences in which Jimmy enters a bar and kills a half dozen armed men without getting a scratch himself, similar to Denzel Washington’s character in “The Equalizer”.  We even get a “Terminator” like hit man named Andrew (Common), who is dispatched by Shawn to kill Jimmy and claims he will do it for free, yet we have no idea why or what their history is.  There are a lot of characters in the film like that.  Just fodder for the next bullet fired out of Jimmy’s gun.  GRADE: C-