Around the time Run All Night was arriving into theaters actor Liam Neeson let it be known on the promotional tour that he was nearing retirement from the action genre. Can’t say I blame him. How often can a card-carrying member of the AARP survive hairy situations where fists, knives and guns come into play? It’s why Clint Eastwood stepped away from being Harry Callahan (though as was proven in 2008’s Gran Torino, Eastwood still had some “dirty” in him, even as a cantankerous Michigander).
While most audiences know Liam Neeson for being badass Bryan Mills in the Taken films, I was there when he was Darkman, and when he tutored both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bruce Wayne. The guy was also Rob Roy, the Greek god Zeus, Sir Gaiwain (Excalibur), and Keegan (Krull). Hell, he was even a Delta Force member alongside Lee Marvin and Chuck Norris. And if anyone ever calls into question his heroism credentials, just give them these two words: Oskar Schindler.
Becoming an action star when Taken took off in 2008, Neeson carved quite the niche as the old guy action hero. But with too much saturation in the action genre, even with slight variations, audiences were growing tired. Not helping the case for Run All Night was its arrival two months after Taken 3‘s release. Theatergoers did no longer need Neeson as an action hero. His time was up. The same way the action icons of the ’90s eventually went to the land of direct-to-video. But in the case of Neeson, he was an actor playing an action star. Not an action star trying to act.
RAN is Neeson’s third collaboration with Jaume Collet-Serra, after Unknown and Non-Stop. It is undoubtedly the best of the three in terms of look and supporting cast. Ed Harris alone makes this a better offering than Neeson making his way around Europe trying to remember who he is, or trying to figure out who is killing passengers aboard an airliner.
Jimmy Conlon (Neeson) is a glorified janitor for the mob, taking out the trash in a hit man capacity so those in power don’t get their hands dirty. Once known as The Gravedigger, his best days are memories from a long time ago. He’s pushing beyond fifty and the reflection he sees on the side of a whiskey glass is the sins of his past.
Best friend to mob boss Shawn Maguire (Harris), Jimmy’s allegiance is tested when his estranged son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman), is a witness to a murder and becomes a target of Maguire and his men. With Mike on the run, Jimmy searches for penance as he helps to keep his son from being on the wrong side of a gun, a fate that will surely catch up with Jimmy one day, if not sooner.
Having enjoyed the little seen A Walk Among the Tombstones starring Neeson as a punch-drunk private investigator, I was glad that RAN was an action thriller with grit, not all flash. Coming from writer Brad Ingelsby, whose last screenplay Out of the Furnace gained an all-star list of talent but was avoided because of its slow burn pacing and conclusion, he tightens up the story to transpire over a single night and be more engaging for mass consumption.
Not including the family angle, there are moments where the film echoes Michael Mann’s Heat. A restaurant scene with Liam Neeson and Ed Harris, the actors driving this simple revenge thriller, is not unlike Al Pacino and Robert De Niro sitting across from each other in a diner. The biggest difference being that Pacino and De Niro have Oscars and Neeson and Harris don’t.
The scenario involving Mike’s importance to the story, in kicking off the conflict, is ill conceived, and this is followed by more than a few implausibilities. But then again, the filmmakers expect you to go with the idea that two guys are wanted by not only the mob, but by New York police, and of course a hired assassin.
Run All Night works because of Liam Neeson. It’s easy to root for Neeson when he’s playing an older version of Jack Bauer in the Taken films, especially for red-blooded ‘Mericans (snark), but he’s better as the flawed hero. It’s why The Grey is so powerful with its theme of loss, or why as Matthew Scudder in A Walk Among the Tombstones that his past actions leave him with regret. Ed Harris may not have a showy supporting role like he does in A History of Violence but he is solid as always. Vincent D’Onofrio and Nick Nolte have minuscule roles that are of little consequence, which may explain why they get no mention on the front cover art. Unlike rapper Common who plays the enigmatic assassin Andrew Price. For him actions speak louder than words.
Doug Coleman, the man responsible for making the action and stunts look legit, has a menagerie of chase sequences to go along with gunplay and close corner confrontations. They are pretty standard in their design but enriched by Martin Ruhe’s (The American, Harry Brown) cinematography. We also get a boost in the aural department from Tom Holkenborg (better known as Junkie XL), whose score is a warm up to what he would do for George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road.
The Blu-ray Disc sports great lossless DTS-HD Master Audio surround mix and video presentation. The balanced audio in terms of dialogue and soundtrack should be noticed by pure audiophiles, even though the rear channels aren’t extensively used. With RAN taking place mostly at night, Collet-Serra’s decision to go with muted secondary colors in terms of clothing helps to keep a stark visual aesthetic, representative of the subject matter.
Unlike the dark subject matter, the supplemental package is fairly light. The disc comes with two featurettes. Shoot All Night is a behind-the-scenes look with director Jaume Collet-Serra and his production team in New York. Action All Night is six minutes with the cast and crew extending platitudes to Liam Neeson as the vulnerable action hero. Sixteen minutes of deleted scenes, a standard definition DVD and Digital HD Copy round out the extras.
Run All Night is an entertaining thriller that will be enjoyed by fans of Liam Neeson or fans of action in general. The disc has a solid audio/video presentation and supplements that will be easy to watch after the initial viewing, only to never be watched again. Worth a rental, at least.
Warner Bros. presents Run All Night. Starring: Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman, Vincent D’Onofrio, Nick Nolte, Common. Written by: Brad Ingelsby. Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra. Run time: 114 minutes. Rating: R. Released: June 16, 2015.
Tags: Ed Harris, Liam Neeson, Run All Night