I like to think of Run All Night as an apology from Liam Neeson to theatergoers everywhere for doing Taken 3. Apology accepted, sir.
I say this because I love Mr. Neeson as a leading man and I have since seeing Rob Roy. People talk about his late-career resurgence as an action hero but I personally prefer him when he plays a complicated character. The Taken series never bothered to make him anything more than an expert killing machine and that was a waste of talent.
Fortunately Run All Night does not waste anything. It's a relatively straightforward action/thriller but it actually takes the time to flesh out the characters. Neeson is Jimmy Conlon, an ex-hitman who constantly lives with regret and the only way to keep his mounting guilt at bay is to drown himself in any and every bottle he can find. He has no friends outside of former friend/boss/employer Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) and even Shawn does little more than check in on him from time to time.
Living in a ratty apartment in New York City, Jimmy does nothing more than move from drink to drink in a misguided effort to stay warm and forget. Meanwhile there's Shawn's son Danny (Boyd Holbrook), an idiot who wants his father's power, prestige and above all his full acceptance into the business. However, Danny is impatient and rash. Things take a turn when his attempted hook-up with an Armenian gang of heroin dealers goes sour. Jimmy's son Mike (Joel Kinnaman) is an unfortunate witness and despite Shawn and Jimmy's attempt to keep things calm, everything goes from bad to worse and Danny ends up quite dead.
What follows is a tense film that follows Mike and Jimmy as they try to stay one step ahead of Shawn and his thugs as well as the police (including an excellent Vincent D'Onofrio) and a merciless hitman (played by Common). To make matters worse, Mike absolutely despises his father for who he is and everything he has done. In fact, they have not even spoken in five years and Jimmy has never even met his daughter-in-law or granddaughters.
Yeah, there's some actual emotional depth to this film that was sorely lacking in the Taken series. But despite there being some actual acting, there is still plenty of room for fantastic action sequences from tense car chases to gun battles and even a few fisticuffs. Heck, there's even a fight where two men are hitting each other with flaming logs.
Yes, flaming logs.
Even better, the camerawork here enhances the action rather than forcing the viewers to use their imagination. The only problem I have with the film is the way it moves from one scene to another is unnecessarily hokey. But since that's my only issue I'm not complaining.
Run All Night is a good action thriller that actually utilizes the leads' acting skills and manages to be tense throughout. I recommend it for anyone who wants to see Neeson and Harris chew some scenery or just wants to see some decent fight choreography for a change.