ByBenjamin Marlatt, writer at

Once an intimidating hitman known as the “Gravedigger”, Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) is now a down on his luck alcoholic with a dead wife and a son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman) that wants nothing to do with him. The only one in the city that seems to have any care and respect for him left is his longtime friend and mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris).

That all changes after Mike witnesses Shawn’s careless, drug addicted son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) murder two Albanian drug traffickers. When Danny follows Mike home to off him, Jimmy intervenes and kills Danny, and with that one pull of the trigger, the only man who seemed to care for him became his #1 enemy. With time not on their side, Jimmy and Mike must outwit Shawn as he sends all that he has out to bring them down.

So once again we’re treated to another offering by Liam Neeson where he kills a bunch of people and shows the world just how bad-ass he really is and blah blah blah blah blah!

Except this time, not really.

Run All Night comes from Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet Serra, who had already directed Liam Neeson twice before this in the forgettable Unknown and the dumb but fun and entertaining Non-Stop. Third time here is certainly a charm as this is the best film that they’ve done together. While the poor marketing for it made it seem that way just like what was done did with The Grey and A Walk Among the Tombstones, this is nothing like the Taken films. Collet-Serra serves up a very stylish and engaging thriller that thrives on exciting action setpieces (one of which is a thrilling escape from a Rangers/Devils hockey game) and inventive camera moves, but is also refreshingly anchored by more character development than we ever got in the entire Taken franchise.

The script by Brad Ingelsby (Out of the Furnace) bites off a little more than it can chew by cramming in a number of subplots – the seasoned detective who’s been trying to take down Jimmy for decades (Vincent D’Onofrio in a solid supporting performance), Jimmy’s strained relationship with his son Mike, Mike’s wife and kids (of course, like every jeopardized wife in a thriller, she’s pregnant), a professional hitman with a grudge against Jimmy (a very effective Common, a man of few words who just lets his actions do the talking) and Ed Harris’s mission to kill both Jimmy and his son. There’s also a third-act cameo appearance, when Jimmy visits his brother, that doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the story, and it also doesn’t make sense that Shawn’s searching high and low for Jimmy, yet of all places he fails to investigate it’s Jimmy’s brother’s.

Still, for a film that’s juggling a lot, it never dawdles and Collet-Serra keeps things rolling smoothly by framing the story in a time setting that takes place over a 16-hour period. Time is of the essence for Jimmy and Mike and it’s that time frame used here that helps create a thrilling sense of urgency where every minute matters for those two.

It’d be easy to just say since 2008 if you’ve seen one Liam Neeson performance, you’ve seen ‘em all, but what Neeson brings to this film is really everything Bryan Mills isn’t. Jimmy Conlon isn’t the confident bad-ass that’s gonna kick all the baddies’ asses and get the job done in a highly efficient manner. He’s a broken down, washed-up, alcoholic with a son that can’t stand the sight of him. He knows his better days are far behind him, and since that time he’s burned every bridge in his life he could possibly burn. He knows by the time night passes he’ll be dead, whether going down fighting or rotting in a prison cell for what he’s done, but this isn’t about seeking redemption; it’s about protecting his son.

Now that I think of it, I guess you could say he too has a particular set of skills: drinking himself blackout drunk and being a deadbeat father.

Equally strong opposite Neeson are both Ed Harris (who shares a quiet yet tense diner table scene with Neeson that’s absolutely riveting) and Joel Kinnaman, and there performances, as well as their histories with each other, are a large part of what makes this film so enjoyable. Collet-Serra wisely doesn’t pad the film with obligatory flashback scenes or character intros, and he honestly doesn’t have to either. Neeson, Harris and Kinnaman are able to easily color in enough backstory through just their interactions with one another. Kinnaman, in particular, is a standout. We expect great things from veterans like Neeson and Harris, but Kinnaman – who was the bland weak link to last year’s decent RoboCop remake – finally shows when placed in the right hands and the right role, he can turn in a strong performance.

Although marketed to look like just another blase Taken film, Run All Night is directed with great style and energy by Jaume Collet-Serra, and features three strong performances by Neeson, Harris and Kinnaman. Despite some predictable turn of events and what looks like Neeson doing what we’ve seen from him about a thousand times before, the depth found in these characters is more than what the advertisements will lead you to believe and is what helps transcend this film from being another dull, forgettable action-thriller.

I give Run All Night a B+ (★★★).

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