Published Jun 15, 2015In a way, the working relationship between director Jaume Collet-Serra and Liam Neeson has produced three sequels to Taken that the actual sequels of that increasingly dreadful franchise wish they were. Unknown, Non-Stop and Run All Night have recycled the basic premise of a relentless man on a mission to set right a wrong with consistently effective results. They find a new spin on the instigating force — whether it be identity takeover, airplane hostage situation or a mafia blood vendetta — and set Neeson loose on an uncompromising, id-fulfilling rampage.
While Unknown and Non-Stop were unashamed templates of propulsive North American multiplex entertainment — the former more so than the latter — Run All Night takes itself a tad more seriously. This time out, Neeson plays Jimmy Conlon, a drunken, defeated mobster hitman employed by ersatz best friend, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). Both Maguire and Conlon have fractured relationships with their sons, with Danny Maguire (Boyd Holbrook) being a bit of an impulsive fuck-up and Mike Conlon (Joel Kinnaman) eschewing his father's lifestyle in favour of a more reputable family life with his wife (Genesis Rodriguez) and two daughters. This is all fine and well until circumstances lead Mike to witness a murder committed by Danny, putting him on a kill list that his father must single-handedly defend.
Once Jimmy sobers up and sets out on a murderous journey through New York's streets, subways, back alleys and apartment buildings, this formulaic action flick hits its stride. Collet-Serra has an aptitude for creating a kinetic dynamic, keeping things moving from action sequence to action sequence with a natural sense of pacing aptitude.
The issue this time out is that the exposition in between car chases and fist fights in burning buildings isn't particularly well done. We understand that Jimmy is riddled with inner demons from a life of morally abject employment and we understand that his son resents him for it — he covers up his picture in a family collage early in the film — but this interplay doesn't add the intended emotional dimension that all involved are aiming for. All it really succeeds in doing is bogging down the entertainment aspect with faux-earnestness that has little else to say beyond the usual redemption rigmarole.
While these efforts to affect audiences surely helped the actors invest some energy into their respective roles, they take some of the fun away from an audience that is ostensibly just looking to see Neeson do what he did in previous Collet-Serra films. And while there's nothing wrong with stepping away from the template and looking for something deeper — Scott Frank's A Walk Among the Tombstones was a rather rich and engaging piece of contemplative action — it's all just cursory fluff here. Still, things progress quickly enough that this shift in tone isn't necessarily alienating — it's just a bit disappointing.
On the special features included with the Blu-ray, Ed Harris and Liam Neeson discuss the emotional component of the film and say it's what attracted them to their respective parts. Of course, this, like everything else through Run All Night, is treated with only a high-level assertion that doesn't really dig beyond a surface that's overly marketed and corporate. As such, the supplements provide little insight or benefit, merely being a protracted trailer and promotion for the film itself.