Friday, March 27, 2015


Liam Neeson embarks on an after-hours artillery barrage in “Nonstop” director Jaume Collet-Serra’s “Run All Night,” (***1/2 OUT OF ****), a vigorous, but formulaic, bullet-riddled, crime thriller that keeps the NYPD busy until dawn.   No, “Run All Night” doesn’t imitate Neeson’s “Taken” trilogy.   Neeson’s “Run All Night” hero qualifies more as an anti-heroic underdog, while “Run All Night” shares more in common with Neeson’s earlier abduction opus “A Walk Among the Tombstones.”  “Tombstones” cast Neeson as an ex-NYPD cop who quit the force after one of his stray slugs killed an innocent child.   Neeson’s “Tombstones” hero lived alone and attended AA meetings when he wasn’t trolling for clients as an unlicensed private eye who preferred to work off his pay in trade.   In other words, he wasn’t too fastidious about his clients and crossed the line between good and evil without a qualm.   Conversely, Neeson plays a washed-up enforcer in “Run All Night” for a merciless Irish Godfather (Ed Harris) who keeps his lifelong pal on the payroll because they started out together.   Comparatively, “Run All Night” is pretty grim, but it isn’t as creepy as “A Walk Among the Tombstones” with its pair of villainous homosexual maniacs who abducted women and carved them up for fun and games.   Moreover, these two movies make the three “Taken” thrillers appear hopelessly whitewashed.  Nevertheless, “Run All Night” is the kind of actioneer where you still root for the hero, even though you suspect he may have to confront consequences before fadeout.  Perhaps the closest thing to “Run All Night” would be Martin Scorsese’s Italian crime movies, like “Goodfellas” where Robert De Niro portrayed a trigger-happy lunatic.  Ultimately, the chief difference is Neeson’s itchy trigger fingered hitman redeems himself for his homicidal past.  While Neeson dominates the action, Ed Harris is no slouch as his no-nonsense, tough-as-nails, Irish mob boss.  Joel Kinnaman, Boyd Holbrook, Bruce McGill, and Holt McAloney round out the seasoned cast, with African-American actor Lonnie Rashid Lynn, best known by his nickname ‘Common,” standing out as an obnoxious assassin with a grudge against the Neeson hero.

Neeson plays Jimmy “The Gravedigger” Conlon, a notorious Irish gunsel who not only has managed miraculously to stay out of jail, but who also has rubbed out opponents by double-digits.  Since his wife died, Jimmy has spent most of his time nursing a bottle while he wrestles with his conscience about all those people he executed for infamous crime chieftain Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris of “A History of Violence”) who ruled the Irish mafia in New York City with a steel fist.   Mind you, this doesn’t mean Jimmy has lost his touch.   All that booze hasn’t diluted the ice water flowing through his veins.   He hasn’t lost that lethal knack that he perfected during his dark days of killing. Lately, Shawn has relaxed and has promoted his pride and joy, Danny Maguire (Boyd Holbrook of “The Skeleton Twins”), as head of operations.   Unfortunately, paternal love has blinded Shawn to Danny’s flaws.  Moreover, Shawn doesn’t realize the mistake that he has committed by turning over his largely legitimate empire to his decadent son.   Not only has Danny foolishly convinced himself that he is invincible but also that he is bulletproof.   Furthermore, Danny feels the desperate urge to prove himself to his dad.  He brokers a million dollar deal with some unscrupulous Albanian heroin dealers that he thinks his father will applaud.   The Albanians assure Shawn he will never regret their partnership.   Shawn surprises them when he turns down their deal and sends them packing.   Predictably, Danny is livid with indignation until Shawn explains how he pulled a similar stunt with cocaine twenty years before and had to wipe out half of his friends because they had become rip-snorting junkies.   Shawn doesn’t want to repeat his earlier mistake.   An irate Danny owed the Albanians already so he has no alternative but to blast both of them into eternity.   What Danny doesn’t plan for is the witnesses who saw him ice the Albanians.

Meanwhile, Jimmy has an estranged son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman of “Robocop”), who took a swing at professional boxing but crapped out.   Mike is nothing like his father.  Mike has kept his nose clean.   He drives a limo, has two adorable little daughters, and has gotten his wife Gabriela (Genesis Rodriguez) pregnant with their third child.   Mike leads a budget-pinching, but largely happy life on a blue-collar income.   When he isn’t driving the limo, Mike mentors an orphaned African-American teenager.   He is coaching Curtis 'Legs' Banks (Aubrey Joseph of “Fading Gigolo”) in the art of boxing at the local gym.   When he isn’t boxing, ‘Legs’ fools around with his new smart phone.   Mike encounters ‘Legs’ one evening after he has taken the two Albanians to confer with Danny about their abortive heroin smuggling deal.  Danny tosses the Albanians a satchel bulging with bogus bills, laughs at them, and then perforates them.   After he caps the second Albanian, Danny discovers that Mike has been sitting nearby in the limo that delivered the two Albanians.   Naturally, Shawn is infuriated about this unforeseen turn of the events.  Things grow complicated because Danny fears that Mike witnessed one of the murders. What he doesn’t know is that Legs captured the murder on video.  Worst of all, Danny doesn’t count on Mike’s father showing up and shooting him in the back of his head before he can blast Mike.   Now, a grieving Shawn launches a full-scale war against Jimmy for bumping off his only son. 

Director Jaume Collet-Serra allows “Run All Night” to unfold in flashback, but this gimmick doesn’t sabotage the suspense.  The resourceful Neeson is about as devastating against his own bloodthirsty mob as Denzel Washington was against the Russian mafia in “The Equalizer.”  Collet-Serra orchestrates an exciting car chase through traffic congested Big Apple city streets that will keep you squirming.  He also relies on snappy Google Earth transitions to maintain spontaneity. “Run All Night” runs out of neither momentum nor surprises during its 114 minutes.

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