The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Run All Night

Liam Neeson is one of the most prodigiously gifted actors out there, but he seems content to expend his talents on lightweight action pictures. Many of them bear more than a passing resemblance to Taken, the one that really put him on the map as a modern action hero. It is not uncommon for actors to take the “one for them, one for me" approach, i.e. making a mainstream commercial film, followed by a more challenging or personal project. Neeson seems to have adapted that philosophy into “two for them, one for me.” After seeing his work in films like Schindler's List, it's difficult to understand why he'd want to be in so many movies that he can sleepwalk through. Run All Night, in which he protects a son instead of a daughter, is better than some of them, although not different enough to distinguish itself from the pack.

Neeson plays retired hit man Jimmy Conlon. (Doesn't he play a character named Jimmy Conlon in all his movies?) Jimmy is a loyal, longtime associate of Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), a former mob boss gone straight. The two are almost like brothers. Shawn's son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) is still young and arrogant. He tries to orchestrate a drug deal that goes bad. Jimmy's estranged son, Michael (Joel Kinnaman), sees Danny murder someone in the process. Danny comes looking to silence Michael, and Jimmy kills him in the process. Shawn, horrified and feeling betrayed that a close friend would do such a thing, declares that he will just have to kill Michael in retaliation. Thus begins a cat-and-mouse game, as Jimmy spends an entire night trying to protect his son from Shawn and his goons.

Run All Night has all of the things you would expect from a Liam Neeson action picture. There are brutal hand-to-hand brawls and tense shootouts, plus a nifty, ironic car chase in which two crooked cops in a police vehicle are chased by an aging criminal. All of these scenes are generally well-staged, if edited a little too confusingly at times. Some of them are also fairly clever. There's an extended sequence inside a housing complex that involves hoards of people running down stairs, while certain characters dangle over the edges of balconies. Oh, and the whole place is catching fire. In the most basic, “bang for your buck” kind of way, Run All Night delivers reasonably well. There's nothing here to blow a viewer away, but it's not likely to bore one either.

The movie doesn't really reach for anything beyond the basics, though. And this is a shame, since the makings of a first-class crime drama are all here. The theme of Run All Night is parental love. Danny is, quite frankly, a scumbag, but Shawn loves him (even if it is tough love) and can't abide by his murder. Michael, meanwhile, hates Jimmy's guts, but Jimmy risks everything to keep his boy safe because he realizes what a lousy father he's been up to this point. He also attempts to preserve his son's innocence in the middle of multiple violent interactions. The potential for real drama is inherent in exploring how two older criminals examine the manner in which their lifestyle has impacted their offspring. Those moments are sandwiched in between bloody action mayhem, however, thereby relegating them to the shallow end of the story pool.

Here's one example: Jimmy calls Shawn on the phone to explain why he had to kill Danny. We see a silent, brief shot of Shawn telling his wife, and her breaking down. Later, he has a line of dialogue about “never making my wife happy again.” It would have been so much more powerful to fully depict Shawn breaking the news to his wife, knowing that it was his influence that led Danny down the road to his demise. Seeing more of her reaction would also have strengthened the meaning of the line about never making her happy. Here's a guy who's physically lost his son and emotionally lost his spouse. It's no wonder he wants revenge! These things are oddly treated as throwaways, rather than as things that could bring depth or meaning to the plot.

Run All Night cares about its theme only insomuch as it leads to the next fistfight, shootout, or chase. Neeson and Harris are both good, and they get a doozy of a face-to-face scene mid-way through. They're talented enough to take some bigger emotional ideas and make them soar. Director Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown, Non-Stop) and screenwriter Brad Ingelsby hold them back by refusing to dig deeper. Liam Neeson undoubtedly possesses “a very particular set of skills.” That just isn't enough this time.

( 1/2 out of four)

Run All Night is rated R for strong violence, language including sexual references, and some drug use. The running time is 1 hour and 54 minutes.

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