More of what Neeson does best
Benefitting from the harder edge that almost all of Neeson’s post-Taken actioners have lacked, Run All Night tries to be a little different but ends up being mostly the same, for good and bad.Building a gritty, criminal underworld background into the story, with decades-long loyalties and friendships, and dual father-son relationships at the centre of the structure, Run All Night populates its universe with interesting ideas. It also breathes life into its characters through a number of great acting choices – most notably the scene-stealing Ed Harris, who puts everybody else (Neeson included) to shame, but also even that unnecessary Robocop remake’s lead, Joel Kinnaman and the new Daredevil TV show’s memorable villain, Vincent D’Onofrio. Ultimately, though, it really struggles to escape traditional Neeson-busting-heads-to-save-his-family motions, attempting to paint the drunk has-been former Irish mob enforcer, Jimmy “The Gravedigger” Conlon as a lost soul beyond redemption who has done some truly despicable things and ultimately deserves to die almost as much as his best friend, ageing crime boss Shawn Maguire. But Conlon is still, ultimately, action-hero Liam Neeson, fighting for the side of right – to protect his son – from the vicious clutches of a seemingly impossible-to-placate crime boss.It’s ironic that the biggest and arguably most important development in the latter end of Neeson’s career –namely his miraculous Besson-inspired transformation into a reinvented middle-aged action icon – has also pretty-much left the man unable to escape being pigeon-holed in such roles, irrespective of his attempts to step out of the mould. From his alcoholic air marshal in Non-Stop, to his ex-alcoholic Jack-Reacher-lite detective in A Walk Amongst the Tombstones, to his drunk ex-hitman here, Neeson carries these movies and largely makes them the engaging fare that they are, but also appears to – through his sheer presence – restrict the ability for us to truly invest in a different character and not just root for Liam Neeson (also see Statham’s Blitz, Safe and Hummingbird). Visually inventive editing, some memorable fight sequences, a few great face-offs with Ed Harris (who out-classes everybody) and some tense confrontations with Common’s Terminator-esque rival hitman leave this another good, extremely watchable thriller from Neeson. But truly different? For good and bad, unfortunately not.
Warner’s Region Free UK release appears to match its preceding US counterpart, boasting a strong, though far from flawless video presentation.
Promoting the film with a 1080p/AVC-encoded rendition, framed in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen, we get strong detail which affords the image some rich texture and delivers pristine brighter sequences – what few they are given the title of the film – but treads on dodgier ground at night, succumbing to black crush, noise and other digital anomalies that at too obvious to ignore. The film was obviously shot with an intentionally moody style, unabashedly drowned in murky shadows, but all of this comes at the expense of the aforementioned problems. Surprisingly, it still looks pretty damn good, and the style certainly fits the mood of the piece, but it’s never going to be regarded as demo material, which is disappointing because it really should have been.
The accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, conversely, easily earns itself a resounding demo award.
Delivering strong dialogue clearly and coherently across the fronts and centre channels, Run All Night has a solid foundation boasting plenty of the two ‘p’s – power and precision – but really excels in its engaging score and thunderous action sequences. Atmospherics are maintained even during the quieter more dialogue driven scenes where old friends reminisce, but the surrounds truly get a workout when brakes are squealing, cars are crashing, trains are screaming, and guns are blasting bullets across the soundstage. It’s an engulfing, penetrative effort which knows just how to bring the action home.
ExtrasA small selection of extra features afford us a limited look behind the production in the 10 minute Shoot All Night, and a further offering from – and about – the reinvented action star in the 6 minute Liam Neeson: Action All Night, whilst a quarter of an hour of extra footage – split into 6 short and largely unnecessary Deleted Scenes (which do include more Ed Harris, although it also includes some slightly dodgy wig-wearing flashback sequences) – rounds out the disc.
Trying to be a little different, ultimately this is just more of the same from Neeson, but thankfully this still means great entertainment and - at least this time around - no PG-13 restrictions.
The accompanying Region Free Blu-ray release matches up to its across-the-pond counterpart with strong video (notwithstanding the struggles that it has with the material's abyssal blacks) and excellent audio, as well as a few nice extras. Fans shouldn't hesitate in picking it up but know exactly what they're going to get - Taken, with a twist, and far better than some of Neeson's more watered-down actioners. More than that though? Ultimately, despite its desperate attempts to be different - and despite fans welcoming a different approach - this is just more of the same. This means another solid, even high-ranking, entry in Neeson's action filmography, but unfortunately not another distinctly memorable choice in his career.
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