Writer: Casey Lee
Overall: 4.0 Out of 5
Cast: 4.0 Out of 5
Plot: 3.0 Out of 5
Effects: 3.0 Out of 5
Cinematography: 4.0 Out of 5
Watch this if you liked: "Unknown", "Non Stop", "Collateral"
The Good, the Bad and the Running:
Looking at the trailer for "Run All Night" one can surmise the plot as such: Liam Neeson's son kills a mobster's son, mobster wants Neeson and son dead, Neeson turns on his badass mode, takes son along for a run as fugitives to survive the long night. While that captures the gist of it, "Run All Night" is not your next "Taken" clone that has endless runs of action set pieces one after the other, but it takes you on an all-night run that is riveted with subtle tensions and deep character dynamics that is occasionally punctured by intense action sequences. Those who are looking to see Liam Neeson as their model of manliness and deliverer of pain in the most creative way should turn away now. Neeson doesn't fire the first shot until almost a quarter of the movie is done setting up the well of developed characters all pitted together with strong motivations to put some manly drama in this action mix.
In his third collaboration with Spanish director Jaume-Collet Serra, Liam Neeson's father figure this time is Jimmy Conlon. While his loyalty to best friend (more like blood brother) and veteran mob boss Shawn Maguire has him under Maguire's sentimental protection even as Jimmy is broke and has fallen to drink, Jimmy's past history as a hitman who has eliminated many of Macguire's enemies and threats has made him an estranged father to his own son, Michael, who now works as a limo driver after an unlucky boxing career.
Twisted circumstances involving Macguire's son, Danny, who is ambitiously eager to take over his father's criminal mantle, leads to Michael becoming a witness to a messy clean-up by Danny which eventually leads to Jimmy having to come to the rescue in an irreversible misunderstanding that leaves Danny dead on Michael's kitchen floor.
But what does Jimmy do after realising what he has done? He calls Maguire to inform him that he has killed his son. That could be seen as a head-slapping stupid thing to do if this was an action movie, but again there needs to be a reminder that this is more character driven movie than a choreography-oriented one. There is a deep reason behind Jimmy's action even though he knows full well what this would mean.
Screenwriter Brad Ingelsby, who famously wrote the Christian Bale-Casey Affleck brotherly story "Out of the Furnace", brings his set of character dynamics and complexities that has more defined connections and characterisation. The deep connection and bond between Jimmy and Shawn is well caught and thrown back at Neeson by Ed Harris, who plays as the dignified mobster, who also can kill with his commanding presence. The action scenes leave a much lesser impression (but have no doubt that they truly are impressive by themselves), than when Neeson and Harris share the scene with respected animosity that is burning through their steel eyes when face-to-face or through their equally menacing guttural voices on the phone. Joel Kinnaman, while barely the weakest among the three male leads, is a far cry from the stiff work he had done in "Robocop" and handles the depth of his own character; as a desperate father (with Genesis Rodriguez as his small-time wife), an angry son, and a strict mentor to one of the street kids from the ghetto parts of New York, with enough nuance to get the Jimmy-Michael dynamic working than dragging.
There are even some hidden surprises in the cast, including most recent Oscar-winning singer Common (for Best Original Song) who is introduced much later in the second act as a new deadly force pursuing the father-and-son duo, and one that will be kept as a surprise instead of spoilers.
As for the set pieces themselves, they may not have the benefit of having more expensive stunts or tremendous obstacle courses that Neeson has been through in his action career, but director Serra makes terrific use of the actual locations in New York itself. Even for the most unlikeliest of sequences, it runs on an energy that is reminiscent of Michael Mann's similarly one-night adventure "Collateral" that keeps you on your toes, whether it is the car chase when Jimmy is chasing after a cop car (now you know you're in trouble) which is carrying his soon-to-be wrongly convicted son, or the elaborate cat-and-mouse foot chase in an apartment complex that Serra claimed had used the actual residents as extras. The only slight ruin is the overly zealous fast cuts that commits as much sin as a shaky camerawork without the nausea.
With solid directing by Serra that is headed towards brilliance, a screenplay from Ingelsby that works on different emotional layers, combined with a cast that is far more capable in delivering the needed nuance, "Run All Night" is a tour-de-force in surpassing any of Serra's previous collaborations with Neeson. There is going to be much confidence abound for Serra's future career, and Ingelsby when he tackles "The Raid" remake.
Look Out For:
The car chase.
Joel Kinnaman plays as Jimmy Colon's son named Michael, which is also the same name of Liam Neeson's real son.
Cinema Online, 16 March 2015