We need to pull the plug on this — Liam Neeson’s whole act is starting to get embarrassing. The Northern Irishman caught a second wind in 2008 when he starred in Taken, bringing his Schindler’s List gravitas to a crappy generic thriller and giving it some shivery menace. Lately, though, Neeson seems to have wearied of playing guys who can kill everybody in the whole world, and he’s taken to parodying himself in The Lego Movie and other places. He managed one last good thriller with last fall’s underappreciated A Walk Among the Tombstones, but Taken 3 and his current movie Run All Night have shown that he has gotten too old for this.
Neeson plays Jimmy Conlon, a once-feared hit man for mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) who’s now being kept on as an alcoholic charity case. The lifelong pals are thick as thieves until the night when Jimmy’s estranged, honest, limo-driving son Michael (Joel Kinnaman) chauffeurs two Albanian drug traffickers to meet Shawn’s bad-apple only son Danny (Boyd Holbrook). Michael sees Danny murder the dealers and flees the scene, and when Danny shows up later at Michael’s house to eliminate the witness, a forewarned Jimmy is there to kill Danny. A grieving Shawn vows to visit retribution on the whole Conlon family, so Jimmy has to keep Michael alive while he settles the score with his boss.
The male presences around Neeson are savvily cast, especially a sharp-edged Harris, Vincent D’Onofrio as a jaded but still outraged cop, and Common as a coldly precise hit man. They’re wasted, though, on material that has been trod over and over, as screenwriter Brad Ingelsby fails to unearth anything of note in Jimmy’s relationships or his guilt over his crimes. The story’s compressed timeframe should make for a lean, brief film, but Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra dawdles over this and stretches the thriller over two hours. For some reason, the movie also spoils its own big final twist in its opening shot, of Jimmy lying in a forest glade with a bullet through his gut.
The director makes hash out of the action sequences, too, though that’s not entirely his fault. The brutal fight between Jimmy and a younger, stronger goon (Holt McCallany) in a subway station bathroom is perhaps credible if you squint, but the same can’t be said for a showdown between Jimmy and the hit man in a burning apartment, which is edited to incomprehensibility because Neeson can’t do the stunts any more. Jimmy is a Scotch-soaked wreck who can barely stand through the early going, and Neeson forgets to show us the effort it must take to pull himself together for this one vital mission. The exhaustion we feel is coming from him, not the character. Much like his Jimmy, Liam Neeson seems aware of his clock running out.[box_info]
Run All Night
Starring Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, and Ed Harris. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Written by Brad Ingelsby. Rated R.