By Stephen Mayne @finalreel finalreel.co.uk
Come on people, by now it must be clear that threatening Liam Neeson’s fictional family cannot end well. For Neeson – part-time actor, full-time avenger – does not take kindly to guns pointed in the general direction of his children. Or knives, blunt instruments, mean words and angry looks. Teaming up with director Jaume Collet-Serra for the third time (Unknown & Non-Stop) on Run All Night, his decrepit hitman cleaves dogmatically to cliché in a film that offers plenty of forgettable fun provided you don’t stop to think.
Perhaps that’s why they went with Run All Night for the title. After a clumsy introduction to the main players, the action rattles by, offering constant distractions in lieu of anything more substantial. Sticking closely to his standard past-it practitioner of violence, Neeson is Jimmy Conlon, a sozzled bum who once killed people for his best friend, crime boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). It’s only their friendship that keeps a roof over Jimmy’s head and drink in his glass. But even a lifelong relationship struggles to overcome Jimmy shooting Shawn’s son to death.
To be fair, Danny Maguire (Boyd Holbrook) had it coming. After his attempt to clean up a drugs deal gone wrong is witnessed by Jimmy’s respectable and estranged son Michael (Joel Kinnaman), he ignores family orders and goes to remove the witness himself. Enter Jimmy to save his son, a father of two with another on the way, and spark a crazy race across New York as Jimmy tries to keep the two of them alive and prevent Shawn framing Michael for the night’s deaths.
Instead of keeping a simple set-up lean, Brad Ingelsby’s over-egged screenplay shovels in new strands. There’s the constant need to lapse into memories of days gone by whenever Jimmy and Shawn meet. Then Vincent D’Onofrio’s long suffering cop, a man who’s spent a lifetime trying to put Jimmy away, stumbles in. Don’t forget Michael’s fatherless mentee Legs (Aubrey Joseph), a poor black kid he’s kindly taken under his wing. Oh, and Nick Nolte’s grizzled brother who acts as another obstacle to Jimmy and Michael’s inevitable reconciliation. And to top it all, Common’s ridiculously hi-tech assassin joins the party, tracking them down like The Terminator complete with laser sight, night vision and a never say die attitude.
You’ll notice a certain gender bias here. Collet-Serra’s film finds no place for women. Only Michael’s partner Gabriela (Genesis Rodriguez) is given any screen time and even that’s minimal. She’s pretty and pregnant, the two roles women are allowed in the sexist world of Hollywood thrillers. Run All Night finds no place for complexity or characterisation either. It’s an almost entirely empty film that gives the façade of content by stuffing in so many half-baked sub-plots.
Luckily, the action ducks and weaves at a manageable pace, providing just enough variety to keep it light and fun. Collet-Serra handles car chases, shootouts and a game of cat and mouse in a giant apartment block with a confidence that drags the faltering screenplay along with him. It also distracts from the bland visuals that see New York cast in multiple shades of amber and grey, highlighted by the camera zooming between different districts. This fast becomes a gimmick outstaying its welcome.
Eventually Collet-Serra and Neeson have to admit defeat. Jimmy Conlon, haunted killer and late blooming father slows enough for the supporting cast of narrowly drawn characters to catch up. And when they do, the good times fade away. Jimmy shows he can Run All Night but not forever.
Run All Night is on General release from Friday 13th March