With Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman, Common, Nick Nolte. Written by Brad Ingelsby. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Rated R for strong violence, language including sexual references, and some drug use. 114 minutes.
Here’s the plot of RUN ALL NIGHT: a veteran hit man has cordial ties with the local mob boss but is put in a situation where he has to kill the boss’s violent and out of control son. Blood is thicker than water, and so the boss sets out to kill the hit man using every means at his disposal, including hiring another professional killer. Much violence ensues.
In the hands of strong filmmakers this becomes “Road To Perdition” (2002). In the hands of people wanting to make a stylized, over-the-top movie, it becomes “John Wick” (2014). And now, under the direction of the sometimes interesting Jaume Collet-Serra, this plot is transformed into a lackluster Liam Neeson thriller.
Now just the fact that people now talk about Neeson’s action films is kind of amusing, because the Irish actor once known for movies like “Schindler’s List” and “Love, Actually” is now best known for the “Taken” films. Now in his early 60s, Neeson (or his stunt double) is engaging in high-speed chases and shoot-outs, when he’s not punching the living daylights out of someone. He’s worked with Collet-Serra before, in “Unknown” and “Non-Stop,” the latter of which featured a fight in an airplane’s restroom. There’s a fight in a bathroom here, too, but they’ve got a little more room to maneuver around.
Neeson plays Jimmy Conlon, and in spite of a long history of killing people for Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), he is now an old drunk, haunted by his past. Indeed, his son Mike (Joel Kinnaman), doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. By coincidence–meaning the heavy-handed plotting of scripter Brad Ingelsby–Mike chauffeurs some drug dealers to a meeting with Shawn’s son Danny (Boyd Holbrook). It’s his job as a driver, but when he sees Danny kill them Danny comes after him as a witness, and that’s when Jimmy takes him out.
What follows are the expected chases, crashes, shootings, knifings, punchings, etcetera. Most of the cops are on the take, but an honest one, Detective Harding (Vincent D’Onofrio), wants to get Jimmy to confess. This complicates matters since the corrupt cops are trying to frame Jimmy and Mike, and stone killer Andrew Price (Common), is out to kill them before they can talk. Nick Nolte inexplicably shows up for a scene as Jimmy’s brother, seemingly dropping in from another movie.
Collet-Serra tries to juice up the proceedings with some fancy camerawork, but it’s for naught. When, in “Perdition,” Paul Newman and Tom Hanks shared a dramatic moment about how they were both essentially doomed characters, it was powerful. Here Neeson and Harris certainly have the acting chops for it, but the dialogue is so uninspired there’s little they can do with it. As a result, there’s no real drama and little at stake. We’re not invested in these characters, nor are we longing for Jimmy and Mike to reconcile. As for the women characters, they barely register here, except for the adorable children playing Mike’s two daughters.
“Run All Night” will be lucky if it runs all week. This one’s dead on arrival.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.