Magazine article Variety

Run All Night

Magazine article Variety

Run All Night

Article excerpt

DIRECTORS: Jaume Collet-Serra

STARRING: Liam Neeson. Ed Harris. Joel Kinnaman

Someday the mobsters, petty thugs and crooked cops of the world will finally get it through their thick skulls that you should never, ever mess with Liam Neeson's family - not that audiences have reason to complain in the meantime, so long as they keep getting action pictures as straightforward and robustly satisfying as "Run All Night." In his third and arguably most effective partnership with director Jaume ColletSerra (after "Unknown" and "Non-Stop"), the 62-year-old Neeson puts his worldweary killer instincts to good use as an aging Brooklyn hit man trying to protect his estranged son - a twist that pushes this tense, elegantly assembled chase thriller into full-on male-weepie territory, so heavy with sins-of-the-fathers anguish that it almost plays like a latter-day "Road to Perdition." Yet Collet-Serra keeps things moving so nimbly that the emotions never turn leaden, suggesting this Warner Bros, programmer could display some muchneeded commercial stamina in a season of box office disappointments.

This time around, director and star have dispensed with their earlier Hitchcockian wrong-man scenarios. There's no mistaking Neeson for anything but the right man in "Run All Night" - namely, Jimmy Conlon, an Irish-American mafioso who knows his pursuers all too well and can scarcely begrudge them for wanting to hunt him down. Remarkably, despite the narrative's compact 16-hour time frame, an entire gangland history manages to come into fleeting focus, as Collet-Serra freights even the most offhand exchanges of dialogue (and gunfire) with a disquieting intimacy that underscores his characters' shared experience: Whether conceived on a grand scale or in close quarters, the violence always feels personal.

If there's a weakness in the clean, economical screenplay by Brad Ingelsby, it's that Neeson's character seems perhaps too forlorn a figure at the outset, an impression that doesn't entirely jibe with the keen-witted man of action who emerges later. Once known as "the Gravedigger," the deadliest arrow in the quiver of respected Brooklyn kingpin Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), Jimmy is now stuck nursing a lifetime's worth of regrets through an endless glass of whiskey, and forced to earn quick cash by performing humiliating favors for Shawn's son and heir, Danny (Boyd Holbrook). Handsome, spoiled, callow and monstrous, Danny has clearly absorbed the elder Maguire's ruthlessness but none of his professional scruples or life knowledge. By contrast, Jimmy's lone son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman), has become a paragon of working-class virtue - a dutiful family man who wants nothing to do with his old man and his life of crime.

With the various intergenerational contrasts and parallels thus established, all these long-simmering tensions suddenly explode one winter evening when Mike, a limo driver in the wrong place at the wrong time, witnesses Danny blowing away an Albanian heroin dealer. (For all its general superiority to the "Taken" movies, "Run All Night" is no improvement in the ethnic sensitivity department.) In short order, Mike is forced to renew ties with the hated Jimmy, his only hope of staying alive and ensuring the safety of his pregnant wife (Genesis Rodriguez) and two daughters (Giulia Cicciari, Carrington Meyer). …

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