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Liam Neeson moves one step closer to becoming the new Charles Bronson in Run All Night, the latest slab of amped-up urban mayhem he’s found to perpetuate his rugged-leading-man-of-a-certain-age success now that the Taken series has run its course. Playing a longtime Brooklyn hitman who gets to take down a few more baddies during a long night’s journey to oblivion, the actor has again found a violence-based story driven by family threat and the basest human emotions, which, along with clockwork outbursts of nasty low-life action, look to deliver a quick domestic payday and a heftier one overseas.
“I’ve done some terrible things in my life,” admits Neeson’s Jimmy Conlon, who in his prime was so fearsome that he was nicknamed the Gravedigger, although it now looks certain that the last grave he digs will be his own. In Neeson’s 2014 collaboration with director Jaume Collet-Serra, Non-Stop, the actor’s sky marshal character was an alcoholic — and that’s true here once again. Jimmy is a wreck, constantly in his cups and quite without friends, other than old cohort Shawn (Ed Harris).
The two Irish blokes started out together in a tough neighborhood, with Shawn rising to the top and using Jimmy as his go-to trigger man. Shawn is now rich, respectable and ready to retire, while Jimmy is such a Bad Santa that his own son Mike (Joel Kinnaman) doesn’t want him anywhere near him, his wife or young kids.
By contrast, Shawn’s thirtyish son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) is still trying to prove himself to his old man but hasn’t even learned the basics, starting with lesson one: Don’t get on the wrong side of Albanian drug dealers (Neeson’s Taken character could have told him as much). The whole bloody business of the script by Brad Ingelsby (Out of the Furnace) stems from Danny’s colossal blunder of trying to force his father into business with these vermin, but when Jimmy is forced to kill the reckless Danny, blood brother Shawn is obliged to hunt him down.
The title’s meaning kicks in here, as Jimmy has to move like hell all through New York City to keep one step ahead of Shawn, as well as a cop (Vincent D’Onofrio) who’s been trying to nail him for 30 years and Shawn’s new favorite hitman Price (Common), whose poised relentlessness could make him a blood brother to Denzel Washington‘s titular character in The Equalizer.
Set on a snowless, unfrosty Christmas Eve that looks like it was shot around September, the story keeps everyone in motion all night long, and frantically so, to the point that it could easily have been titled Non-Stop 2. Mike, an unwilling participant in his father’s nonsense, has to keep his family out of harm’s way, while Jimmy bounces around the boroughs like a pinball in an effort to set things straight before his pursuers knock everyone off, himself included.
It’s hard to deny that some degree of ingenuity was required to figure out how to festoon this elemental story with enough moving parts and blasts of action to fill it out to feature length. On the other hand, no effort was expended to make it geographically coherent (unlike the recent Nightcrawler, which was impeccable in this respect); Jimmy can be in the Bronx one moment and Midtown the next, then out in the woods somewhere to duel with Price. Add to this the jittery images, which sometimes make you think the handheld camera is so hot no one can bear to hold on to it for more than a few seconds, and you have a film that, if nothing else, can’t be accused of sitting still.
The movie consists entirely of angry threats, pointed guns, hiding out from and eluding same, and mad dashes down mean streets on foot and in vehicles. The characters are uniformly uncouth and unhappy, and the sudden appearance of an unbilled Nick Nolte provokes a double-take (just to figure out of it’s really him) that lasts about as long as his screen time.
Production company: Vertigo Entertainment
Cast: Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman, Boyd Holbrook, Bruce McGill, Genesis Rodriguez, Vincent D’Onofrio, Lois Smith, Common, Nick Nolte
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Screenwriter: Brad Ingelsby
Producers: Roy Lee, Brooklyn Weaver, Michael Tadross
Executive producers: Steven Mnuchin, Jaume Collet-Serra, John Powers Middleton
Director of photography: Martin Ruhe
Production designer: Sharon Seymour
Costume designer: Catherine Marie Thomas
Editor: Dirk Westervelt
Music: Tom Holkenborg (Junkie XL)
Casting: Cathy Sandrich Gelfond, Amanda Mackey
Rated R, 114 minutes
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