Liam Neeson is in a rut. A comfortable rut, to be sure. For him, anyway. The $20 million payday he reportedly received for “Taken 3” ensures that rut must be very well upholstered indeed.
He’s become the most credible of aging action stars, bringing superior acting chops and natural-born gravitas to his roles. But lately his pictures all seem like the same old same old. Time and again, it’s him against a world of gnarly characters who want him dead, who themselves invariably wind up deceased, thanks to his “particular set of lethal skills.” So it is with “Run All Night,” which is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously directed Neeson in “Unknown” and “Non-Stop.”
This time, Neeson is playing a broken-down Irish mafia hit man named Jimmy Conlon who gets sideways with his gangster boss and longtime best buddy Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) when he kills Shawn’s mad-dog son (Boyd Holbrook) who was just about to kill Jimmy’s son (Joel Kinnaman, all scowls). “You know how this has to end,” the grief-stricken Shawn growls. Jimmy does, and so do we: with bullet-perforated corpses from dusk to dawn as Jimmy tries to protect his lad from Shawn’s vengeance.
For a shaky old wreck, Jimmy sure proves to be a durable cuss, running with his son all night long (see title) through New York City, not only from Shawn’s trigger men but from the enraged NYPD (they believe Jimmy is a cop killer) and from a contract assassin played by Common. What we have here, folks, is killer overkill.
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Nothing that Jimmy, who shakes off his shaky persona pretty early on, can’t handle. Except, well, the movie does open with him lying, apparently dying, on a forest floor, intoning in voiceover his regrets about a life misspent. All the rest is told in flashback.
So the tone, set from the get-go, is gloomy. His son despises Jimmy for having been an absent dad; everyone else is out to get him. Downer city.
Though Neeson, as usual, gives an effective performance, maybe it’s time for him to lighten up and climb out of his rut. “Run All Night” feels like he’s run into a career dead end.