Yup. We get it. Liam Neeson is one of the all-time great Hollywood tough guys. I’m not even being sarcastic. In Run All Night, his Jimmy Conlon is an obnoxious alcoholic bum, a former hitman for the Irish mob in New York who’s haunted by all the people he killed. He’s hated by his adult son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman: RoboCop, Easy Money: Hard to Kill), who wants nothing to do with his father, and with good reason: Jimmy Conlon is not a nice man. At all. And yet somehow, Neeson (Taken 3, A Walk Among the Tombstones) suckers us into sympathizing with him as he and Mike run around the city over the course of one night trying to fix a situation with Jimmy’s old boss and best friend, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris: Snowpiercer, Gravity). They’ve had the mother of all violent falling-outs, and now Mike is targeted for death, even though he has never been in his father’s line of work and appears to be a genuinely decent and honest guy.
The effortless ease with which Neeson makes us root for him is almost — but not quite — enough to make us see past the fact that how Mike ends up a target is the result of one of the more ridiculous coincidences I’ve ever seen a movie attempt. And there’s a ton of unironic and unintended silliness at just about every step of the way, from the clichéd crazy Albanian heroin dealers, to Maguire’s straight-faced claim about being a “legitimate businessman,” to the Terminator-like unstoppable assassin (Common: Selma, Now You See Me) Maguire eventually sends after the Conlon boys. (Common is pretty awesome, though. He needs to headline an action movie soon.) Screenwriter Brad Ingelsby (Out of the Furnace) does know how to invent some fresh action, and director Jaume Collet-Serra does know how to direct it in a dynamic way: a cop car on the receiving end of a chase is novel, and one sequence set in an enormous public-housing apartment building is tense and exciting. But those bits are few and far between.
There’s almost nothing of substance here that we haven’t seen done before, and better. And with less drag: is it really a good idea that we should feel as if this movie is running literally all night? If this third reteaming of Neeson with Collet-Serra — after the equally silly but more entertaining Non-Stop and the just plain silly Unknown — proves anything, it’s that they both need to move on to something new.