In his third collaboration with Liam Neeson (“Non-Stop”, “Unknown”), director Jaume Collete-Serra gives us another suspenseful action film. While there is nothing very original about the story, “Run All Night” is a buddy movie masquerading as a survive the night film. It’s the gravity of the relationships in the film that give it stakes that work for the genre.
Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) is a washed up hitman, plagued by the faces of those he’s killed. Local mob boss, Sean Maguire (Ed Harris) keeps Jimmy’s basic needs met out of a twisted guilt for making him an abandoned, shell of a man due to deeds done under his leadership. Sean’s son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) tries to bring Albanian heroine into the family business but is rejected in a meeting before a Christmas party.
The rejection sends the Albanians after Danny to recoup the money they paid him to get his father’s blessing. In an ironic twist of fate, Mike (Joel Kinnaman), Jimmy’s estranged son and a limo driver, drives the Albanians to meet Danny. When Danny botches killing both Albanians, Mike witnesses Danny finish the job, and thus becomes Danny’s target. Before Danny can kill Mike, Jimmy puts a bullet in Danny’s neck.
From there, “Run All Night” becomes a master class in acting brought to you by Neeson and Harris. As the two old friends become instant enemies, Sean sends everyone on his payroll to find and kill the Conlon duo. This includes Price (Common) a hired assassin with a score to settle with Jimmy. Writer Brad Inglesby does a significant job in keeping the dialogue out of campy one liners, and uses subtext in such a way to build the tension and suspense. In one scene, Jimmy meets with Sean in a public restaurant to ask Sean to spare Michael’s life. They go from sharing a drink and fond memories together to laying out the rules of engagement in such a smooth way that could only be done after decades of friendship.
New York, New York in the hands of cinematographer Martin Ruhe is a very different New York than we’re used to. The bright lights can become scary when you have someone hunting you down, and Ruhe capitalizes on that in the film. Whether using the lights of Times Square, Madison Square Garden, or the grid patterns from an aerial shot, Ruhe is able to create something special that really adds to the tension of film.
The great thing about survival films is that there is usually a built in clock that keeps the pace moving and suspense thick. As Jimmy and Mike try to survive the night there are plenty of scenes from other films that get “Frakensteined” into this one. Yet, for what it is, this film succeeds in keeping your attention and will have you on the edge of your seat. After all, it is Liam Neeson with a gun!