Movie review: ‘Run All Night’ |

Movie review: ‘Run All Night’

Common, foreground, and Liam Neeson appear in a scene from "Run All Night."
AP | Warner Bros. Pictures



Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman, Genesis Rodriguez, Vincent D’Onofrio, Common, Boyd Holbrook, Nick Nolte

Rated R, Action, 114 minutes

One way to find out if an action-thriller has the goods is when two or more of its major characters square off in a public restroom, making use of bathroom fixtures to disable or kill one another.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra, teamed with his action muse Liam Neeson, delivers on this trope, elevating the scene to a level rarely achieved. We see the actors grunt and sweat. Thankfully, even the righteous are only human.

Cast as Jimmy, Neeson portrays an ex-mob hit man and enforcer haunted by nightmares about the lives he’s taken and those he’s ruined. The only person who cares about Jimmy is his lifelong friend and employer, underworld boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris).

Coerced into playing Santa Claus at the boss’ Christmas party, Jimmy is brusk with the children and makes lewd remarks to the women. His drunken hostility shuts the party down, but Maguire stands by his friend, reassuring Jimmy that he shares his guilt and claiming, “When the time comes, we’ll cross that line together.” The exact meaning of this statement is unclear, but Maguire considers Jimmy family and his loyalty runs deep.

Jimmy winds up at a seedy, all-night diner also frequented by the graveyard-shift cops. Here, he’s spotted by incorruptible NYPD detective John Harding (Vincent D’Onofrio). On Jimmy’s trail for 20-plus years but unable to directly prove Jimmy’s guilt, Harding is reduced to taunting the broken killer. He hands Jimmy a business card, promising the assassin will sleep better, albeit in prison, once he confess to his mob hits. Jimmy is tempted but is unable to bring himself to ruin Maguire’s life.

That is, at least until Jimmy’s son Michael (Joel Kinnaman) runs afoul of Maguire’s hotheaded son Danny (Boyd Holbrook), who disobeys his father’s orders and attempts to kill Mike, who has accidentally witnessed Danny murdering two men. To save his son Jimmy kills Danny, as well as two crooked NYPD cops sent to finish what Danny started. Suddenly Jimmy and Mike are the subjects of a citywide manhunt, pursued by Maguire’s gang, the cops and by an expert assassin (Common).

In a last ditch effort to save his son, Jimmy offers to turn himself over to Maguire, who isn’t having it. Jimmy has killed the boss’ only child, and regardless of Mike’s innocence, Maguire is determined that Jimmy will live just long enough see the death of Jimmy’s only child.

Estranged for a decade from his dad, Mike is a clean-living limousine driver married to the feisty Gabriela (Genesis Rodriguez) and is himself father to a pair of young daughters who have never met Jimmy. Angry that Jimmy abandoned him and his mother, Mike can barely tolerate Jimmy’s company, even though his father’s protection is Mike’s only chance of escaping death.

The film’s grueling pace, gunfire and scenes of hand-to-hand combat are balanced by Jimmy’s attempt to repair his fractured father-son relationship, and his efforts to reach out to Maguire. Well-written, directed and acted, the tension-filled plot leaves little time to ponder the cliché themes it executes with skill.

As he has done for the half dozen action films in which he’s starred, Neeson captures a flawed, sympathetic man whose particular skill set is out-thinking and out-lasting his enemies. At 63, Neeson’s only getting better at crafting persuasive action scenes, and when teamed with the likes of Ed Harris and Joel Kinnaman, he can certainly run all night — and then some.

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