Deep into his career rebirth as a gruff-talking action hero, Liam Neeson looks like he’s having the time of his life slumming it. But ‘Run All Night’ reminds you of a particular set of skills he’s been deprioritising, namely his acting chops.
A New York City-set chase film that, in its better moments, nears the sweet spot last occupied by 1993’s ‘The Fugitive’, it gives Neeson an actual character to play. He is Jimmy Conlon, a washed-up mob hitman whose fearsome reputation has been marinating at the bottom of a Scotch glass. When Jimmy’s estranged adult son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman), witnesses a brutal crime that quickly escalates into a self-defence killing, both Conlons are targeted by Jimmy’s old boss, Shawn (Ed Harris, furiously good in a too-small part), unless they can somehow... eh, just read the title again.
Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra occasionally panics and sends his camera speeding high above the city like a drone on steroids, as if his audience would fall asleep at the thought of watching a scene without any punching. But in the main, he’s making a character-driven drama about betrayed honour, and the result is a film closer in spirit to the baggage-rich crime novels of Dennis Lehane than dumb multiplex fare.
A dogged detective (Vincent D’Onofrio) could have been better developed, and after so much pungent location shooting in Brooklyn and Queens, it’s a drag to end up skulking around some boring upstate woods for a climax. But when the movie is doing its tough-guy-seeking-redemption thing, it’s more than just good.