By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
I went into this film thinking, “Great, another Taken knock-off”. I left the theater thinking, “That actually was better than I was expecting.” This latest Liam Neeson movie feels like a modern knock-off of Road to Perdition, but still engaging and interesting.” Run All Night will definitely not win any praises for originality, and yes, it typecasts Liam Neeson as retired badass called back into his previous life, but I have to say I still connected with the story, characters and material. Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra, who has previously worked with Neeson on Non-Stop and Unknown, obviously has a great working chemistry with his lead actor. Though I was not too impressed with Non-Stop, Unknown actually is a descent film. This indicates to me that Collett-Serra and Neeson are capable of cinematic magic when given the right script.
In their latest collaboration, Neeson stars as Jimmy Conlon, a semi-retired mob hitman who is close to hitting rock bottom. Haunted by the crimes of his past and hurt by his non-existent relationship with his son Mike (Joel Kinnaman), Jimmy spends most of his time drinking himself into a stupor. Meanwhile, Mike, an ex-boxer spends his time working as a boxing trainer and a chauffeur to support his lovely wife Gabriela (Genesis Rodriguez) and their children. On a night of driving around some Albanian gangsters, Mike witnesses a drug deal gone sour involving Danny Maguire (Boyd Holbrook), the son of mob boss Shawn (Ed Harris), Jimmy’s boss. With nearly nowhere to turn, Mike seeks his father’s help. Jimmy does his best to remedy the situation; however, Danny remains intent on eliminating his witness.
Written by Brad Inglesby, Run All Night shares most of the same beats as Road to Perdition. It has the hitman father who has a strained relationship with his son and the overly-ambitious gangster son who royally screws up his father’s business. The head mobster feels obligated to avenge his son, and the peril that the hitman and his son must face creates a closer bond between them. If one has seen Road to Perdition, then this movie will be strikingly familiar. There are more elements in common, but I do not wish to completely spoil these movies for anyone who hasn’t seen them.
Surprisingly though, I actually did not leave the theater annoyed or irritated as I often do when a newer movie seems to have lifted story elements from a previous one. While watching the film, I found the story and characters rather engrossing and the direction and performances kept me tense and on edge. Like I said this movie does not have much originality going for it, but the director and his actors sell it nicely. Neeson at the age of 62 can still pull off these roles as a heavy duty badass. After the Taken series, Non-Stop, A Walk Among the Tombstones, and this movie, he has recently suffered from typecasting, but I suspect he’s enjoying the work and the solid pay. In addition to Neeson, this movie has a solid cast that delivers the goods.
The film features great turns by Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman, Boyd Holbrook, and Common, who plays a cold and intense hitman. It is these actors, and admirable direction by Collet-Serra that makes this movie worth watching. If one hasn’t seen Road to Perdition, I’d actually recommend seeing that movie first, as it is the superior film. Once that film has been experienced, Run All Night would make a good follow-up either as a matinee or on video.