Liam Neeson is a 63 year old Northern Irishman, and prior to 2008, he was primarily known for dramatic actor-y type award movies like Schindler’s List, Nell, Husbands and Wives, Michael Collins, etc. Occasionally he would throw in a genre actioner here and there, like the original Darkman and playing the “Guiding or Training figure” in Star Wars Episode 1, the Chronicles of Narnia, and Batman Begins. He was living a pretty normal life with his wife Miranda Richardson and their two sons. In 2009, Richardson suffered a fatal head injury during a skiing accident. Neeson took a shift in his career path just around that time with the release of Taken in 2009. It allowed the world to see him completely as an action movie star, as opposed to a mostly dramatic actor.
After developing his ‘certain set of skills’ in Taken, he did the Clash of the Titans remake (he was the best part – it wasn’t very good), the A-Team (he was one of the best parts, and he loved it when the plan came together), The Unknown (he forgets that he’s a kick ass agent!), Battleship (better than you thought it would be!), Taken 2 (stop getting taken!), and Wrath of the Titans. You should watch Wrath of the Titans just for the scene at the end where Neeson as Zues and Ralph Finnes as Hades work together and kick some ancient Greek ass.
Neeson was as surprised as anyone else with his sudden action re-birth. He had originally be convinced that Taken would be a straight-to-video release, but wanted to try it all the same for something just a bit different. For the last few of his gritty actioners - his character does seem to be on a steady decline. In Taken, he was capable, and had a job, but had lost his family, and was trying to rebuild that relationship. In Nonstop, he had a job, but had lost his daughter to cancer, and was an alcoholic. In Run All Night – he’s a huge alcoholic, has lost his family and is completely estranged from his son, and has no job – can’t get much worse!
In Run All Night we learn fairly quickly that Jimmy Conlon is at rock bottom. He used to be the number one hitman for an Irish mobster named Shawn Maguire, who is also his best friend. He was so good; he got the nickname the Gravedigger. However, the faces of everyone he has killed are starting to haunt him, he’s not sleeping anymore, and his son refuses to see him. Meanwhile, Shawn’s son, Danny, is attempting to get his father (now a legitimate businessman) on board with smuggling heroin from some Albanian mobsters. Jimmy’s son, Mike, is attempting to hold his familiar together – a young wife and two small girls with a baby on the way. Mike is working driving a limo, and picks up the Albanians en route to Danny’s house. Shawn has refused the deal, so the Albanians need their investment back. Danny doesn’t have the money, and instead decides to kill them, after first hilariously giving them a bag full of Monopoly money – well, it was hilarious to him, they did not find it funny. Mike (and the kid who he mentors at the boxing gym) unfortunately witnesses the murders. Danny then decides not to listen to his father and stay put – but instead heads over to Mike’s to kill him. Meanwhile, Shawn calls Jimmy and asks him to ask Mike to not go to the cops. Jimmy goes over to Mike’s, and while there, kills Danny just as he was about to kill Mike. Jimmy calls Shawn to tell him he just killed his son, and Shawn tells him he’s coming after him with everything he’s got. This includes another hitman named Price and some dirty cops that Shawn owns. They spin the story to make it look like both Mike and Jimmy killed a whole bunch of people and are on the run, prompting them to go look for the kid so he can clear their names. Basically, that’s it – Mike has to get over his hatred of Jimmy enough to work with him for a night so that Jimmy can try to keep him alive while Shawn and Price come after them.
It’s a tight, quick story that plays out in a really intense, gritty, action movie. I like the format of it all taking place over the course of one night. It’s directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, the director of two of the other two recent Neeson movies, Non-Stop, and Unknown, both of which were great. At this point he and Neeson have really developed a great relationship and he knows how to get the best from him. The cast is all really good in this, but especially keep your eyes peeled for the fantastic Nick Nolte cameo - yes - Nick Nolte is in this, although he has apparently turned into an old crusty sea captain type guy. He pops up as Jimmy's brother:
- Liam Neeson excels at Jimmy – but honestly, it’s the same as Brian Mills again – just a little more drunk. I did enjoy the extremely uncomfortable scene at the beginning where Danny forces Jimmy to be the Santa at the Maguire house Christmas party in order to get a loan. Jimmy drunkenly snaps at the kids and comes on to one of Shawn’s other buddies’ wife. It’s horribly uncomfortable, and Neeson does a great job at it. He’s so perfect in this type of movie as a grimly determined man knowing the situation is doomed, but convinced he can save his son.
- Ed Harris – who suddenly looks way older than he should – is playing Shawn Maguire, and he’s exceptional. The scenes between he and Neeson are fantastic, and you really believe they are two best friends that will destroy each other over their sons. Harris is particularly good in the scene where he needs to tell his wife that their son is dead. There was a small part of me that wanted him to realize that his son was no good, and Jimmy had to do what he did to protect Mike, and while Shawn does seem to know that, he is still determined to get vengeance.
- Joel Kinneman (new RoboCop) plays Mike Conlon, who spends the entire first half of the movie proving how great a guy he is compared to how terrible his father was. He works down at the local boxing gym, mentoring young kids with no fathers (because his father was so terrible). He works really hard as a limo driver for his girls (because his father was so terrible). He takes work on a night he was originally scheduled off to get more money for his family (because his father was so terrible). You get the idea, right? They really hammer that home that Mike is really pissed at how terrible a father Jimmy was. Jimmy does attempt to explain that later, but Mike doesn’t really hear him until the very end, when he does seem to forgive him.
- Boyd Holbrook plays Danny Maguire, and boy is that kid a screw-up. He’s so determined to impress his father that in a cocaine-fueled daze, he thinks making heroin smuggling deals with Albanians is a good thing. He is wrong, and his father knows he’s wrong, but that won’t stop his father from seeking crazy vengeance for his death.
- Bruce McGill (who will always be MacGuyver’s buddy to me) has a small, quiet role as Pat, Shawn’s right hand man. He doesn’t seem to do anything but hang out next to Shawn and nod when he says something. Also – Danny proves how much of a dick he is by snapping at Pat for no reason.
- Genesis Rodriguez plays Mike’s wife Gabriela (rent Man On A Ledge for a better thriller with her in it). She has even less to do, basically it’s all “take the kids and get out of here!” Also – pregnant with a third child even though they are clearly struggling for money? I did like they she and the girls head to her brother’s house to hide once things start going down. Of course, the bad guys go there first to look for them, but you know how that goes. The kids make it through the movie okay – just in case you were worried about that.
- Vincent D’Onofrio steals all the scenes he is in as Detective Harding. He is the cop who has been after Jimmy and Shawn for years and years. He keeps harassing Jimmy for the list of names of all the people he’s killed. They have a tense relationship, but as Jimmy starts to second guess his entire existence, he knows that Harding is the one good cop he can go to for help.
- Common plays the other hitman, Price. He has no facial hair in this, which creeps me out, normally he’s one of the most beautiful men on the planet, but without the beard – he looks a little strange (he looks a little like an egg). I think it’s because during a fight with Neeson, his face gets burned, so he has to wear a prosthetic burn on his face for the rest of the movie, which would have been really difficult with a beard. He’s menacing and evil and non-stop, it was a little different for him, but he was really good.
Overall, the movie is quick and entertaining. It’s well-acted and well-shot. It’s a hard R for the language and violence – there are some really bloody gunshots. It’s very New York without hitting you over the head with New York as some movies do. The scenes between Harris and Neeson alone were fantastic, and really – don’t you just love watching Neeson take out punks?
7 out of 10 – Gained points for D’Onofrio, and the Neeson/Harris restaurant showdown. Lost points for the lack of Common beard, but gained points for Common. Lost points for Danny being such a loose cannon and for Mike non-stop berating Jimmy for being a terrible dad. We get it! He was a terrible father! Now shut up and listen to him, he’s trying to save your life!
Bonus Video 1: Just to prove that Liam Neeson does have a sense of humor about being Liam Neeson - What about Non-Stop, though?
Bonus Video 2: The Taken Honest Trailer.
Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews