You know more or less what to expect for the next 90-plus minutes – a brooding, reluctant hero using his mettle to right some sort of wrong.
Formulas matters in Hollywood, arguably more than ever in our risk-averse age.
So let’s greet “Run All Night” like a bedraggled old friend who occasionally overstays his welcome. It’s briskly directed without much in the way of originality, and the key roles are cast well enough to trump the thin characterizations.
Hardly a pullout quote for the movie poster, but Neeson fans will nod … and then get in line.
Neeson stars as Jimmy, a burned out hit man whose too soused to be much good to anybody. He’s still tight with fellow Irish mobster Shawn (Ed Harris), but their bond shatters when Jimmy is forced to kill Shawn’s son to protect his own flesh and blood (Joel Kinnaman).
Now, it’s a basic revenge saga, with all the good times between Jimmy and Sean swept away by a hunger for street justice. Shawn won’t stop until both Jimmy and his son are dead and buried.
That’s more or less it. Kinnaman’s character, a straight shooter with a beautiful family, wants nothing to do with his father. But only dear ol’ dad can protect the son from Shawn’s goon squad.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra knows precisely what to squeeze out of his leading man. They’ve already hit their marks together in “Unknown” and “Non-Stop.” Adding Kinnaman to the mix gives “Run All Night” a slight but discernible edge. “The Killing” star is so tightly wound he lends even tranquil scenes a dash of unease.
Somehow, Neeson and Kinnamon forge a bond that lets us inside their fractured family, which makes the sharply executed gun battles worth deciphering through Collet-Serra’s fuzzy framing.
Common enters the picture midway through as a proficient killing machine, but he’s still no match for Neeson. Even a token Expendable would struggle with Neeson at this point. He brings a bruised intensity to his action movie roles, the kind that lets viewers know there’s not a soul on screen who can match up to him.
“Run All Night” packs a predictable faux ending, paving the way for one last round of improbably heroism. It won’t be the last for Neeson. He’s an actor who knows precisely what’s expected of him, and he refused to deliver anything less, or more.
SECOND OPINION: Nell “Movie Mom” Minow found the film’s storytelling coincidences and bland characterizations beneath Liam Neeson’s prior efforts.