Can you remember a time before Liam Neeson was an action hero? It wasn’t that long ago, but so complete has been the transformation that such pondering is akin to imagining the world before electricity.
We don’t get too many tweaks to the formula in the latest tolerable romp from Jaume Collet-Serra. As with all the most Neesony Neeson films, Run All Night – appalling title, incidentally – is a revenge thriller. The amazing reversal here is that, for once, Liam is the avenged rather than the avenger. Screenwriters purchase cabin cruisers on the back of great ideas such as that.
Despite being greatly on the Ballymena man’s side, we can’t quite buy the opening scenes in which, bullied by Boyd Holbrook’s spoilt gangster bastard, he essays a drunken, depressed Santa who commits every seasonal enormity short of weeing in the plum duff. Liam can take that as a backhanded compliment. He is too buoyed up by manly charisma to convince in so undignified a role. John Wayne would also have struggled.
Never fear. Before too long something awful happens and gangster Ed Harris (characteristically humourless) sets the hounds on his pal from the “old neighbourhood”. Now, Neeson gets to be Neeson and others get to be shot.
The New York Irish gangster ambience is drizzled rather than slavered over a chase thriller that takes in some first-class shooting, an excellent car chase and some noisily eccentric casting. (It’s depressing to observe that, though only 11 years older, Nick Nolte is all too convincing as Neeson’s father.) There is rather more of it than is strictly necessary, but Run All Night will do well enough for a shoulder-season screen holder.
Liam Neeson goes head-to-head with Ed Harris in the action star's latest shoot-em-up crime drama.
Hitman Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) only has one night to navigate the perilous landscape of New York City's criminal underworld as his loyalty is tested between his mob boss best friend, Shawn Maguire, (Ed Harris) and his estranged son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman).
The film marks the third collaboration between director Jaume Collet-Serra and Neeson (the duo worked together on 2011's Unknown and 2014's Non-Stop). The cast also features Common and Genesis Rodriguez.
Opening this weekend against Disney's live-action adaptation of Cinderella, Run All Night is not expected to earn the top spot at the box office. However, male audiences may be drawn to the film and Neeson has proven himself to be a high-grossing action star (his latest, Taken 3, earned $39.2 million in its opening weekend this January). Projections see the crime drama opening somewhere in the mid- to high-teens.
Read More'Run All Night': Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman Reveal Liam Neeson's Action Movie Secret
Read what top critics are saying about Run All Night:
The Hollywood Reporter'sTodd McCarthy says, “Neeson moves one step closer to becoming the new Charles Bronson in Run All Night, the latest slab of amped-up urban mayhem he's found to perpetuate his rugged-leading-man-of-a-certain-age success now that the Taken series has run its course.” The film is "set on a snowless, unfrosty Christmas Eve that looks like it was shot around September, the story keeps everyone in motion all night long, and frantically so, to the point that it could easily have been titled Non-Stop 2."
"It's hard to deny that some degree of ingenuity was required to figure out how to festoon this elemental story with enough moving parts and blasts of action to fill it out to feature length. On the other hand, no effort was expended to make it geographically coherent (unlike the recent Nightcrawler, which was impeccable in this respect); Jimmy can be in the Bronx one moment and Midtown the next, then out in the woods somewhere to duel with Price [Common]. Add to this the jittery images, which sometimes make you think the handheld camera is so hot no one can bear to hold on to it for more than a few seconds, and you have a film that, if nothing else, can't be accused of sitting still." The "movie consists entirely of angry threats, pointed guns, hiding out from and eluding same, and mad dashes down mean streets on foot and in vehicles. The characters are uniformly uncouth and unhappy, and the sudden appearance of an unbilled Nick Nolte provokes a double-take (just to figure out of it's really him) that lasts about as long as his screen time.”
The Boston Globe'sTom Russo notes if the filmmakers "managed to put together an entire movie as tonally sharp as Run All Night starts out, it could rate as a top-shelf genre entry. But the story loses its convincingly scaled sense of jeopardy in the late going, and it ultimately unravels." But, “the film’s taut elements and character dynamics unspool compellingly for a long stretch." However, "Harris and Neeson are coolly electric in a temporary cease-fire scene that’s all mournfulness, simmering vengefulness, and craggy close-ups. And a chase sequence with Neeson pursuing a squad car is semi-novel, not to mention brutally thrilling," but "as much as we can roll with that car chase getting out of hand, a foot chase that brings down virtually an entire apartment block is crime drama gone off the rails."
The Washington Post'sMichael O'Sullivan gives the film two out of four stars, writing, "Neeson’s antihero is hard to like, let alone recognize as human, even with the reservoir of goodwill that the actor’s fans naturally bring with them to his films, more and more of which feature some version of this damaged soul." The film "plays out with the stylish if numbingly schematic brutality of an artsy action flick. Despite some cool camera work and the kind of noir-lite moral ambiguity that barely gets your shoes dirty" it is "the cinematic equivalent of junk food. It satisfies the craving for the sensation of nihilism, without its substance."
Read MoreLiam Neeson Mocked for Gun Control Comments in Fake 'Run All Night' Posters
Chicago Tribune'sMichael Phillips gives the film an extra half-star saying the actors "go a long way toward redeeming the cliches, the primary cliche being a flawed protagonist who seeks redemption for his sins." The film “is like an honor roll of the rumpled, beginning with Liam Neeson, our supreme late-winter action star. The film co-stars Ed Harris: very well-rumpled and, like Neeson, deeply creased around the eyes in interesting ways. Vincent D'Onofrio rumples his way through the role of an NYPD detective trying to get Neeson's character,” and “Kinnaman, as Neeson's bitter and increasingly desperate son, may be the second-most-important character in the film, but I don't remember much about him, except that he was less rumpled." "Some of the action is staged crisply and well; the bulk of it, alas, is paced and chopped by director Collet-Serra and editor Dirk Westervelt at an unvarying, hyper rhythm." Still, "It's better than some of the dreck floating our way lately, and the actors compensate."
Joe Neumaier ofNew York Daily News gives the film a less favorable rating of one star. He writes, “There are so many characters racing through the hyperactively edited Run All Night that it feels like a thriller made in the midst of the New York marathon." "Fatigue is all we get from Run All Night which hits us with such . . . dialogue doozies as ‘I’m the best chance you’ve got to stay alive!’ ‘You gotta trust me!’ and ‘He won’t stop until we’re all dead!’ It’s like a greatest hits of Neeson’s action-movie quotes — and they run all night. Unfortunately, the movie loses steam within minutes."