Run All Night chooses the wrong thread to follow. Instead of the listless Mike Conlon (Joel Kinnaman) and his mostly unshakeable family, we should be prying further into the life of Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) and his strange, resilient and at times even tender relationship with Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) – father to the boy, Danny Maguire (Boyd Holbrook) whose murder sparks the titular all night manhunt for Mike and Jimmy Conlon.”
Neeson is up to his new tricks, further cementing himself as a reliable, if wizened, action hero with another role as an unstoppable force of nature who’s just trying to protect his family. As usual he’s estranged from said family, flying the drunken Irish flag with aplomb as he drowns his sorrows and stumbles his way through the first act.
Harris plays his long-suffering friend, a mob boss whose known Jimmy since they were soldiers together in Vietnam. He tolerates Jimmy’s boorish behaviour to the chagrin of everyone around him, and holds his friend in great esteem, despite his downward spiral. Every time Neeson and Harris are on screen together the movie shines a little brighter, each of them goading a more intense performance out of the other. Their relationship feels sincere and comes much closer to establishing an emotional core to the piece than the one we’re supposed to care about – Neeson and Kinnaman. Jimmy and Mike do a good job showing no emotion other than grim determination when they share a scene.
The action, when it breaks in, is frantic and chaotic – in the best possible way. There’s a real sense of danger and impetus the first few times Jimmy and Mike get into trouble. But as the night wears on and the odds keep getting ever more hilariously stacked against them, it starts to become laughable that they keep finding ways out of their predicaments. Still, Neeson is really on form as a tired old fighter. He feels slower, less capable and more human than in the Taken movies. The score might be more at home in a superhero movie, though; the swelling orchestral flourishes turning some comparatively standard action scenes into total melodrama. But it doesn’t necessarily detract from your enjoyment.
There are a couple of frankly bizarre cameos that we won’t spoil for you, but suffice it to say they’ll stick out like a sore thumb in your mind. It’s almost as if Run All Night is two movies. One is a heartfelt farewell to two aging relics of a bygone era when criminal organisations were clubs run by friends and it was easy for good men to get swept up in the lifestyle and mortgage their souls. The other is standard action fare, two desperate men trying to outrun the cops, robbers and killers at their heels. It just feels like they
might have wound up with a better story had they chosen to focus on the former instead.