Liam Neeson recently announced that he can see the end of his twilight action hero days on the horizon, and while there have been plenty of missteps during that period, he will be missed as an aging skull-cracker when he finally does hang up his spurs.
Neeson’s latest old-guy stunt-spectacular Run All Night is typical of Neeson’s recent output, an admirable cat-and-mouse tale that puts forth a lot of clichés and executes them with B-movie intensity. Neeson plays Jimmy Conlon, an assassin for an Irish gang run by Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). Jimmy is broke, drunk, and alienated from his son Mike (Joel Kinnaman), who works as a limo driver. Mike witnesses the execution of a pair of gangsters by Maguire’s son Danny (Boyd Holbrook), setting in motion a series of events that leads to Danny’s death and a 12-hour hunt of Jimmy and Mike by both Maguire’s thugs and the police, led by Jimmy’s longtime nemesis Detective Harding (Vincent D’Onofrio).
The first act of Run All Night cruises at a pulpy pace and engages in a very disorienting series of transitions that feels like a Google Maps plug-in, but once the gears are set in motion, the action beats are spot-on: A high-speed chase down Jamaica Avenue in Queens, a slam-bang escape from a raid on an apartment building, and plenty of Neeson’s signature close-quarters kung fu. Throw in a visit from a Terminator-esque gun-for-hire (played with psychotic glee by Common) and you’ve got a bracing, fun hour of cinema.
Unfortunately, Run All Night gets a little slack with its third act and runs out of steam by the time the final showdown arrives. Director Jaume Collet-Serra, who also pointed a camera at Neeson for the dreary Unknown and last year’s Taken-on-a-plane hit Non-Stop, has a hard time tying his films together, and Run All Night suffers from erratic pacing. Still, Neeson brings his signature gravity to his role, and his scenes with Harris—particularly a seems-like-old-times tête-à-tête late in the film—are intense and arresting. Kinnaman fares less well—he broods with the best of them, but he tends to disappear opposite the charismatic Neeson.
Ultimately, Run All Night doesn’t go far enough in any particular direction to make it stand out among Neeson’s late-career best: It’s not as brazenly loopy as the Taken series nor is it as tactile and gritty as last year’s criminally underseen but excellent A Walk Among the Tombstones. Watching the 62-year-old Neeson plow through thick-necked cannon fodder will always be entertaining, but it’s the down time between ass-kickings that sets his transcendent late-period work apart. B-