Ever since 2008’s Taken, we haven’t seen Oskar Schindler in the same light. Liam Neeson was falling from grace until that smash hit and ever since has been a staple in modern action films including three collaborations with Jaun Collet-Serra (Unknown, Non-Stop), most recently the aptly titled Run All Night.
Starting out, it seems all too familar. Neeson plays a father figure with a troubled past. He looks like he’ll kill you just as fast as he may invite you to the bar for drinks. Considering his most recent work, it seems he’s stuck in an infinite loop of playing badass 60-year olds, but he provides some of his best work of recent memory here, and predispositions soon fade. That’s not to say this isn’t a typecast — it is — but he does completely own his role and add depth to this story about fathers protecting what’s theirs and owning up to their faults, even embracing them.
Neeson stars as Jimmy Conlon, begrudged by his son Mike (Joel Kinnaman) for not providing for him and acting questionably while growing up. The two have obviously had a falling out over the years to the point Mike cringes at just seeing a photo of his father in a collage. Despite his shortcomings as a father, Jimmy shows a persistent care for his son and his family, never resting to insure their safety after Mike kills longtime friend Shawn Maguire’s (Ed Harris) son Danny (Boyd Holbrook).
[amz asin=”B00UNONMRQ” size=”small”]That wraps up the first 20 minutes, and what follows is one exhausting action piece after action piece. For an action film its action is rather pedestrian, excelling only at times. But if you cut a scene enough times, you’re bound to get a few decent set pieces though none are particularly memorable aside from the opening which is a prelude to the finale. However what makes the greatest impact is not the chase scenes or shootouts, but the little moments of fresh air in between.
As discussed in the featurette “Liam Neeson: Action All Night” we can’t imagine anyone else owning the role of Jimmy like Neeson does. His performance elevates the rest of the rather shallow story. His ability to pull out a performance shows true penance and humility as a man that’s made mistakes but not without cause. While I enjoyed his performance and how Kinnaman plays off him, the real treat is Nick Nolte‘s scene as Jimmy’s dad, full of contempt toward his son and his wrongdoings.
Nolte’s scene is the highlight and he steals the show, offering great contrast of the role of fathers in society. Neeson is trapped between two generations that disapprove of his history, and he’s willing to do whatever to gain back their respect. It’s what’s not said between the three that’s most intriguing, how fathers affect their children’s decisions and vice versa. I was left wanting more to play off of this scene, but was mostly left empty — the 16 minutes of deleted scenes offering little to nothing. Luckily the ending provides some heft thanks to some exceptional camera work and blocking that says more in silence than most of the film’s dialogue.
Harris also provides an exceptional performance, and his scenes with Neeson really show off their talent. But I can’t say the same for Common as a hitman running down Jimmy and Mike all night. He just can’t move past being a non-violent Civil Rights activist from Selma to me. That may just be my preconception of him, but casting someone lesser known and much more intimidating would have been a wiser choice — elevating the action scenes, but at least there’s some realness to the action as it’s shot on location in New York.
While I can’t fully recommend this to everyone, it certainly was a better film than I anticipated considering the barrage of Neeson films in recent years. It’s not a must-buy by any means, but it’s at least a good popcorn flick that doesn’t require your attention in its entirety. But if you can’t get yourself enough Neeson, Run All Night hits stores June 16, so go get a copy!
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