Bruce Willis and Harrison Ford have gotta be pissed. They were the go-to studs for “older guy” action roles, but now a string of big-budget busts has stranded their A-list status in blockbuster movie purgatory. Now the ass-kicking 50-and-older roles go to Liam Neeson, who rose to leading-man stardom with Taken in 2008 and, seemingly, hasn’t turned down an action pic since. To his credit, Run All Night is more drama than combat, but no matter: There are enough fistfights and shoot-outs to keep die-hard actioners more than satisfied.
“I’ve done terrible things in my life,” Neeson’s Jimmy Conlon says in the opening lines of the film and, boy, he’s got that right. Murder mostly, but abandoning his family and being a terrible father are right up there at the top of the list. For his entire adult life, Jimmy’s been an assassin for New York City mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris, another stalwart veteran), whose hot-headed son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) is primed to take over the family business. Jimmy’s estranged son Michael (Joel Kinnaman) works as a limo driver and, through a weird coincidence, Michael happens to witness Danny murder someone in cold blood. Michael and Danny fight, which culminates with Jimmy killing Danny.
Michael — bless his heart — is one of those stupidly virtuous people who believes that a police involvement ensures law and order. He obviously doesn’t know what genre of movie he’s in. Corrupt cops frame him for Danny’s murder, which prompts Jimmy to rescue Michael. Now the two generations of Conlon are on the lam, trying to survive, with all of Shawn’s men after them. Shawn even hires relentless assassin Andrew Price (Common) to finish them off; he’s the kind of guy who has a red target light on his gun to alert everyone in the vicinity that he’s there, so you know he means business. In the background are Michael’s pregnant wife Gabriela (Genesis Rodriguez) and their two daughters, all of whom are now in danger.
For as much as the movie tries to depict a gritty and grim reality, director Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) isn’t afraid of the absurd. Example: Jimmy and Shawn have lengthy sit-down chats even after they’ve declared war on one another, and Jimmy always escapes with ease. (Neeson’s and Harris’ acting skills in these scenes are exceptional, but that small gem gets lost in the inanity of the scenario.) Shawn’s goons are rather inept, so it’s no wonder Jimmy is able to go to Shawn’s central hangout and wreak havoc.
He does most of this, by the way, using a six-shooter revolver, because apparently it’s 1874 out in the Old West.
Let’s be honest here, though: We left credulity behind when we entered the theater. Neeson’s the hero, so writer Brad Ingelsby’s (Out of the Furnace) plot will no doubt go out of its way to make Jimmy’s life difficult and unrealistic.
OK, Run All Night isn’t great — but there’s enough in the camaraderie of Neeson and Harris, and in the well-staged action sequences — particularly a car chase and a frenzied run inside a large apartment complex — to quash the ire of cynics poised to protest the film’s not kicking enough ass. If nothing else, at least it’s not as bad as A Good Day to Die Hard and Cowboys & Aliens.