Run All Night – Film Review
The last 5 star review here on I Just Hate Everything was the previous collaboration between Liam Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra.
But does Run All Night have the tightness, plane fun, and Julianne Moore of Non-Stop?
That’s a no, no, and a no.
TL;DR Run All Night tries to be more than just the tight little gangster thriller it should have been, and it doesn’t land. The result is a movie that, at best, is too long. And at worst, is hokey and cheesy. Liam Neeson is still an action god, though. 3 out of 5 stars.
Sixty-three and still kicking butt. That sweet Taken money train keeps on chuggin’.
The plot follows Liam Neeson, an alcoholic former gang enforcer who drinks his nightmares away while suffering with the guilt of the murders he committed for underworld boss and best friend, Ed Harris. Harris himself is fatigued with the grind of mob stuff. The pair’s friendship is snapped when Liam is forced to kill Ed’s son when he attempts to kill Liam’s son to silence him after witnessing a drug deal gone bad (Ed’s son is a big douche). Liam’s son, Mike (Joel “Robocop oh…” Kinnaman), is a straight arrow who hates his dad’s guts, but is forced to endure a team up with his old man to make it through a night of retribution from Ed. Liam eventually lays waste to Ed’s forces, and puts Ed down. And then the movie unnecessarily shambles along while an assassin from earlier in the movie continues to pursue Liam and Mike for no satisfying reason. Liam ends up dead, and Mike fucking finally appreciates his dad a little bit.
Redemption equals death. Didn’t you know?
I had high hopes for Run All Night. Non-Stop was a fantastic movie to me. Liam Neeson and the director had also previously worked on the goofy but uneven Unknown. And Jaume Collet-Serra also directed one of my favourite guilty pleasure horror movies: the Paris Hilton version of House of Wax. And Orphan, with Vera Farmiga.
But it looks like Run All Night was supposed to be the next step to a more prestigious sort of movie. But it doesn’t work.
Instead of the extra characters and elements adding complexity, they just feel like more stuff. This movie has too much stuff.
Why I hate this movie:
Most egregiously of all is the assassin character. His introduction makes sense: Ed hires him to take out Liam and Mike, because his own goons aren’t performing well. And the fight between our heroes and the assassin in the apartment block is pretty slick. But then Liam finally kills Ed and the movie should be over, but Sir Assassin keeps on coming, leading to an exhausting final showdown in the woods. I thought Run All Night was being kind of brave by having Liam take out Ed rather easily. But no, we need our final boss battle, dammit. Ugh.
Vincent D’Onofrio’s character also isn’t really needed. He’s a detective who has always had it out for Liam, but never been able to nail him down. Liam turns to him, as he’s the only cop who he thinks isn’t on the take, to offer a full confession for all his crimes, including the ones he’s supposedly committing tonight, if Mike is spared. I’m not saying that this character’s inclusion doesn’t make sense or doesn’t work. To be fair, it does add an extra layer of tension. But it also adds extra screentime. It should have been dropped.
Mike as a character is a huge ball-and-chain for Liam. That’s his purpose. Several times in the movie, Liam has to step in and prevent Mike from shooting anyone, lest he follow Liam’s own dark, murderous life path. Bitch, shooting a hired henchman to save your life and the lives of your family is different to being a mob enforcer. The poo icing on the shit cake comes indeed in the final boss battle with the assassin. Mike, having gone the whole movie as the little angel he is, finally has the chance to protect his family. But the movie cops out by having Liam miraculously get a second wind to shoot the assassin in the head at the last second. Boo.
Mike also endlessly bitches at Liam for the whole fucking movie. Like, if nothing else, he literally saved your life from Ed’s son, who was about to murder you. So bloody ungrateful. Shut up, Robocop.
Another unnecessary character is Mike’s street youth mentee, who happens to get Danny’s (Ed’s son) execution of the drug cartel guy on video. Liam and Mike spend a good chunk of time trying to find him. And then he ends up making his own way to the police station to see Vincent and show him the footage that corroborates Mike’s story. Again, it’s fuctional. But it’s extra time. And with Street Youth and Vincent having a subplot that intertwines, that’s a stuff on stuff pileup.
Nick Nolte also shows up as Liam’s brother to give us a stuff overload. There’s a brief backstory reveal about how Liam killed his own cousin on Ed’s orders one time (more stuff). And there’s a quick scene of Liam visiting his sick mother in the hospital. Stuff it, let’s include some more stuff.
Oh, and there are these totally bizarre CGI flyover shots of the city. They don’t add anything, and slap you out of the experience of this otherwise (or trying to be) gritty mob thriller. Did they really need to pump money into those? Wasteful.
But it’s not all bad:
I’m always ready to go on an action/thriller ride with Liam Neeson. Except for Taken 2.
Liam’s pretty much doing the same old thing he’s been doing since the first Taken, and it works. But the acting highlight here is Ed Harris as the conflicted but ruthless mob boss. Having already watched Anarchy this year, it’s basically the same role. But Ed Harris fucking aces it. I believed him for every second he was on screen.
And he’s given just a little bit of dimension by being a mob boss who doesn’t really want to be a mob boss anymore. He shoots down Danny’s idea to traffic heroin into the city because of his own regrets over choking the city with cocaine back in his heyday. His struggle with going after Liam isn’t given much pause, but you can feel it there.
And Run All Night doesn’t wimp out: Liam fucking kills Ed. He shoots him in the back while he’s running away. Again, that would have been a somewhat brave ending for an action/thriller. They hold each other as Ed bleeds out. It’s sweet.
The entire sequence at the apartment block is exhilarating. I like a good gambit pileup, and Liam and Mike (looking for Street Youth), the assassin, and the police all converge at the block simultaneously. The assassin then sets it on fire, which leads to a duel between he and Liam with flaming planks of wood. Brilliant. If only the assassin had been killed during this sequence. Then we wouldn’t have had that tacked-on ending.
Danny is delightfully arsehole-ish. Even his dad doesn’t like him, and only avenges him out of familial duty.
One of Ed’s crooked cops is Babineaux from iZombie. Hey, if the role fits.
Oh, and Liam’s headshot on the assassin in the finale is pretty beast. Sorry, Mike. You had your chance.
A Liam Neeson action/thriller isn’t going to be The Departed, Jaume. Settle down. 3 out of 5 stars.