Wednesday, March 18, 2015

In Theaters: RUN ALL NIGHT (2015)

(US - 2015)

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Written by Brad Inglesby. Cast: Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman, Common, Vincent D'Onofrio, Nick Nolte, Bruce McGill, Genesis Rodriguez, Boyd Holbrook, Holt McCallany, Rasha Bukvic, Patricia Kalember, Beau Knapp, Lois Smith, Aubrey Joseph, Daniel Stewart Sherman, James Martinez. (R, 115 mins)

Jimmy Conlan (Liam Neeson) is introduced as a booze-soaked butt of jokes among the other Irish mobsters in the neighborhood bar. He's a nickel-and-dimer, a flunky for Danny Maguire (Boyd Holbrook), the spoiled, coke-snorting, Joffrey-like son of NYC Irish mob kingpin Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). It's Shawn's sense of loyalty and friendship that keep Jimmy around, with the boss regularly reminding the drunk Jimmy of all their glory days and how at the end, they'll cross that final line together. Jimmy was once Shawn's right-hand man and most ruthless enforcer, and now Jimmy can't sleep at night, haunted by the faces and the memories of those he's killed. While Shawn's affection for Jimmy is sincere, it's telling that he keeps him at a distance when it comes to business, instead opting to pawn him off as a gofer for perpetual fuck-up Danny, the kind of insufferable, sociopathic brat who expects to be given everything because of who his father happens to be. A disrespected sad sack reduced to dressing up as Santa for a Maguire Christmas party so Danny will loan him $800 to get his furnace fixed, Jimmy has seen better days.

He gets his obligatory One Last Shot at Redemption when a domino effect of plot conveniences force him to step up and take action to protect his estranged son Michael (Joel Kinnaman), his pregnant wife (Genesis Rodriguez) and the two granddaughters he's never met. Michael, an honest family man who wants nothing to do with his father or his criminal legacy, witnesses childhood friend Danny kill a powerful Albanian heroin dealer (Rasha Bukvic) over a deal that went south. Word gets out that Danny is after Michael, so Shawn sends Jimmy to make sure Michael doesn't talk to the cops. Danny tracks down Michael and is about to kill him when Jimmy walks in and shoots him dead. He immediately informs Shawn what happened ("He was about to kill Michael...I had to do it"), but no matter how justified it was, Shawn has lost his only son and will not rest until Jimmy loses his. Mobsters and corrupt cops conspire to frame Michael for the Albanian's murder, and as the media attention grows, Shawn's inner circle of gangsters, unstoppable freelance hitman Price (Common), and the last honest cop in NYC (Vincent D'Onofrio) close in on Jimmy and Michael, putting them in a position where they must set aside their differences and survive the night...if they don't kill each other first!

A major improvement over January's lackluster TAKEN 3, RUN ALL NIGHT is the busy Neeson's third teaming with director Jaume Collet-Serra (UNKNOWN, NON-STOP). Collet-Serra's key to success with Neeson seems to be that the stories are frequently as ludicrous as something Luc Besson would cook up for TAKEN, but he gives Neeson enough breathing room to flex his acting muscles. Whether he's presenting Neeson as an amnesia victim in UNKNOWN or a paranoid, alcoholic air marshal in NON-STOP, Collet-Serra understands that Neeson is a real actor and works some moderately challenging characterization into the actor's now-standard action-movie badass routine. There's actually a lot of similarities between Jimmy Conlan and Neeson's Ottway in THE GREY, and like THE GREY, Neeson is surrounded by a top-notch supporting cast--there's also Holt McCallany and Bruce McGill as Maguire mob guys, and a one-scene bit by a more-grizzled-than-usual Nick Nolte as Jimmy's older brother--but the most pleasure comes from watching him play off a steely-as-ever Harris. While he can bellow and rage like the best of them, Harris has always been one of those actors who can also speak volumes with just a look, and he does a terrific job of conveying that sense of friendship just with the way he looks at Jimmy with a combination of fond memories for days gone by and pitying sympathy for what Jimmy is today. They're both outstanding in their later scene together, where they have what's essentially their own version of the HEAT diner meet in a swanky restaurant, each vowing to do what they have to do regardless of the respect and love they have for one another.

RUN ALL NIGHT's strengths lie with Neeson and Harris, and it's too bad they don't have more scenes together. The father-son issues and bickering between Jimmy and Michael are played well enough by Neeson and Kinnaman (THE KILLING, ROBOCOP), but you've seen it all before. The only major misstep with the casting is Common's high-tech hitman seemingly wandering in from the nearest TERMINATOR audition. He doesn't appear until over an hour into the film, but he never quite gels with his surroundings, and we don't learn enough about him for his showdown with Jimmy to have much resonance beyond the visceral thrill of watching Neeson do his Neeson thing. The script by Brad Inglesby (OUT OF THE FURNACE) errs in the way it abruptly makes Common's Price the chief adversary when the emotional impact lies with the broken bond between Jimmy and Shawn. One other major stumble is a badly-edited car chase early on, assembled in the now-standard way of entirely too much CGI augmentation in a quick-cutting blur with frequent close-ups of a grimacing Neeson clutching the wheel, making constipated faces like he's driving a car at high speed through Times Square. Nitpicking asdie, RUN ALL NIGHT is slick and satisfying entertainment for Neeson's base, the kind of undemanding but compelling actioner that you'll happen upon and end up watching several times as it finds its permanent home in constant rotation on the various HBO channels for the next two decades.

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