Tuesday, August 11, 2015

"Run All Night" (2015)

Starring Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman and Ed Harris
Written by Brad Ingelsby
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
Rated R — Violence, strong language
Running Time: 114 Minutes
Trailer

Jimmy "The Gravedigger" Conlon (Liam Neeson) is a hitman struggling to forget all the horrible things he's done. Haunted by the faces of all the people he's killed, Jimmy has fallen into a pit of despair and alcoholism. His best friend since childhood, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) —the local gangster for whom Jimmy did all this killing — tries to help him out, but nothing can erase the past.

No one knows this better than Jimmy's son Michael (Joel Kinnaman) who hates Jimmy for that very past, and tries his hardest never to be like his absent murderer father. With two children and a third on the way, Michael spends his time away from being a limo driver by mentoring under-privileged children at a local gym. One night while waiting for two Albanian clients, Michael encounters one of his boxing students, Curtis (Aubrey Joseph), and the two of them witness Shawn's son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) murder Michael's clients. Michael escapes Danny, who calls his father to tell him what happened.

Against his father's orders, Danny goes to Michael's home and attempts to kill him but is himself killed by Jimmy. Shawn can't abide the murder of his son, no matter how in the wrong he was, no matter who did the killing, and vows to get revenge on Jimmy by killing Michael. He frames Michael for Danny's murder, and the murder of two police officers sent to arrest him. Now father and son must put aside years of resentment to prove Michael's innocence and make it through the night alive.

Sometimes a middle of the road thriller is all it needs to be and all you want it to be. With just enough interesting character beats and occasionally impressive photography set in a rainy New York City, "Run All Night" isn't the type of film that'll win many die-hard fans, but it will entertain you on that rainy night in.

Neeson, whether by choice or because he's finally realizing that these are just the movies he makes now, really sells the mental and emotional exhaustion of Jimmy Conlon. Especially in the opening scene where he wakes up and stumbles drunkenly out of a bar. I know that sounds weird, but it really is a great moment and Neeson nails it. But, as usual of late, the role in general is not one that will tax Neeson, nor display a great deal of range. He's going to be his gruff, angry middle-aged self and he's going to wreck faces. You know what to expect.

The same goes for the rest of the cast, all of whom succeed at doing what they need to do but without really trying. Ed Harris gets a couple of impressive moments as Shawn, especially a mid-film confrontation with Jimmy where he lays out exactly what he plans to do to get revenge. Here's a darkly emotional scene taking place in the middle of a restaurant in New York City that seems like it should be ridiculous, but isn't.

The action sequences are well made; a car chase through Brooklyn with Jimmy going after an NYPD cruiser (in an interesting twist) is fun and like the rest of the movie just skirts with being ridiculous but never goes overboard. A shootout at Shawn's bar headquarters is also cool, but probably the best sequence in the entire film features Jimmy and Shawn being hunted through a Brooklyn housing project by Mr. Price (Common), another hitman hired by Shawn, while the police muster outside. Price is one of the film's better creations, taking the cold emotionless killer trope and running with it. The execution destroys the objective blandness of the character, with Price employing all kinds of modern tech trickery to achieve his objective, and just enough hints of a bad history between him and Jimmy to make their vicious encounter more lively.

"Run All Night" is a decent gangster thriller. It knows what it's doing, but never really pushes its boundaries. It features a few moments of genuine cleverness, but is otherwise nothing more than competent. Solid performances and action sequences with the occasional flash of something better, "Run All Night" won't wow you but you'll probably enjoy it well enough.