On the Silver Screen – Run All Night
Jaume Collet-Serra’s Run All Night gives audiences their second Liam Neeson action vehicle of the year casting the aging Irish actor in the role of a father doing everything he can to protect his son from being killed.
Seeing Liam Neeson in an action role is not unusual these days since Taken allowed him to have something of a reinvention as an action hero. I’m not complaining as he’s good at that sort of character and seems to be able to handle the pace despite the fact that he’s in his 60s.
Neeson’s Jimmy Conlon is a slight departure from his standard action fare as he has a lot more humanity than usual. I like that his years of killing and other morally dubious acts have taken a psychological toll on him and has resulted in him becoming an alcoholic who has made lots of mistakes in his personal life. An early scene where he disgraces himself at a Christmas party while dressed as Santa is particularly memorable in showing how close he is to rock bottom.
Jimmy’s relationship with his son Mike (Joel Kinnamon) is a bit hit and miss. I never got a strong impression that they were family -estranged or otherwise- and I found Kinnamon to be as passionless and bland as I usually find him. His character more or less sleepwalks through the film and his interactions with his wife Gabriela (Genesis Rodriguez) and children just come across as flat. There aren’t many scenes of them as a family but they all felt so forced and unbelievable.
One thing the film beats the audience over the head with is Jimmy’s desire to have his son not become a killer like he is. There are several moments when Mike has to be stopped from crossing that line by an anguished warning from his father. I can see what the film was going for but it was repeated far too often.
His friendship with Ed Harris’ Shawn Maguire is something that the film establishes very well. It is a pleasure to watch these powerhouse actors play off each other throughout the film. The major issue is that their relationship sits on the sidelines of the narrative and doesn’t received the focus that it deserves. The major issue is that there are so many other things being thrown in that this aspect gets somewhat buried under everything.
Despite fairly limited screen time Harris does a fantastic job with his character. Shawn Maguire has a lot of depth and it’s easy to imagine him using his intelligence to work his way to the position he is in now. His reaction to the death of his son and the subsequent detached anger he feels are played wonderfully. If only the friend to enemy transitional relationship was given more attention.
There are some extraneous elements that don’t really amount to very much over the course of the film. Vincent D’Onofrio is wasted as Detective Harding after some early scenes establish that he has a history with Jimmy and that the two have some sort of ambigious respect for one another. Harding appears and disappears from the film at random points so the idea is never developed as extensively as it could be. It would have been better had this character been cut entirely.
On the subject of characters that could have been cut entirely there’s Common’s Andrew Price who serves no real purpose other than being an unstoppable badass killing machine. Like Detective Harding he appears and disappears from the film that it’s hard to work out how significant he is. Having him be the “final boss” to coin a video game term is massively unearned and comes across as really silly.
In a pointless action scene in a burning apartment complex Price is established as being Terminator like in his determination and skill, even shrugging off a painful burn to the face in pursuit of his target but in an overlong final forest firefight he embodies the cliché of a wisecracking bad guy. Unsurprisingly this proves to be his undoing, undermining his relentlessly skilled nature from earlier.
This film is very poorly paced with certain scenes dragging on endlessly. There are simply too many characters and too much going on with very little payoff. What should be the central antagonistic relationship is pushed aside to make room for other superfluous elements that weigh the film down. It could have been a solid 90 minute long uncomplicated action film instead of the bloated disappointment that it turned out to be.
Liam Neeson’s latest action vehicle proves to be a slightly above average affair with far too many extraneous elements bogging down what could have been a simple and well crafted action film.
Neeson turns in a decent performance as a grizzled over the hill killer who has made many mistakes in his life. Some early scenes showing how far he has sunk are really strong and Neeson works with the material well.
The father son relationship between Neeson and Joel Kinnamon comes across as really flat. I find Kinnamon really bland in all of his roles and this is no exception. There’s nothing about him here that feels believable and his interactions with his family feel unbelievably forced.
Any scene where Liam Neeson and Ed Harris play off each other is a joy to watch. These powerhouse actors work really well together and provide shades of a better film where their antagonistic relationship is the central one. Instead the film chooses to fill the narrative with extraneous elements such as an underdeveloped respectful rivalry between Neeson’s character and a detective played by Vincent D’Onofrio. Similarly, Common plays a contract killer who is unnecessary in the context of the story
This could have been a really solid action movie but it suffers from too much padding and unnecessary subplots to make it live up to any potential that it had.