Run All Night Review
And to think he used to be a serious actor
Liam Neeson is once again back with that very particular set of skills that have so successfully reinvigorated his career, since Taken took the best part of $250 million at the worldwide box office.This time he’s battling bad guys in an attempt to save his offspring from being, well… taken. Sound familiar? Not surprising. It would be easy to accept Spanish born horror-turned-action director Jaume Collet-Serra’s sixth feature as just another Neeson does bad guys over to save someone he loves/clear his name/make amends for past mistakes, feature, but there is perhaps more to this tale of redemption than initially meets the eye.
Neeson’s Jimmy Conlan is a past his prime New York born Irish gangster who as we first meet him is peeling himself off the sofa of the local drinking den after another heavy night on the sauce, much to the amusement of his fellow gangsters, and begging for handouts from the bar owner and son of his boss and best friend Shawn Macguire (Ed Harris).
Macquire’s Son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) is a coke-snorting psychopath who has no qualms in belittling Conlan by making him dress up as Santa at his father’s Christmas party. It soon transpires he has upset the wrong Albanians though, and he finds himself having to kill them to avoid paying them back the money he owes. Unfortunately for him, Jimmy’s estranged – and very straight living – son Michael (Joel Kinnaman) is driving the limo that the Albanians arrived in and witnesses the whole thing.
Danny tries to kill Michael, Jimmy finds out and kills Danny, Shawn swears vengeance on Jimmy and Michael, and father and son find themselves on the run from both sides of the law as Shawn has them framed for the murders of two corrupt Policemen caught in the cross-fire. Michael wants to turn himself over to the police immediately but Jimmy – knowing they are just as corrupt as Shawn’s team – convinces him to give him just one night to set things right. The ageing, regretful father wishing to make amends with his estranged son is a theme familiar with films featuring Irish-Americans, and although it sits at the forefront of this film, it is perhaps not the most interesting theme that runs throughout.
Much like Sam Mendes’ 2002 prohibition picture Road to Perdition, this film is about the complex levels of loyalty that place family members above friends, and so ask for unconditional support and vengeance despite life-long friendships that, if fully considered, might actually prove water thicker than blood. Shawn is all too well aware of his son’s wayward behaviour and soliloquises of the exact moment he knew that his son had ‘gone the wrong way’, but is all too ready to seek out and kill his best friend (and his son), who has remained loyally at his side for more than thirty years.
This film is about the complex levels of loyalty that places family members above friends.
There is also more than a hint of an ‘an eye for an eye’ in this set up, in their requisite show-down in the bar scene, which is perhaps all too reminiscent of Paccino and Deniro in Heat, Shawn tells us how he plans to keep Jimmy alive just long enough to watch his own son die, so that he can experience what he has gone through. It seems that perhaps it is in fact a veneer of friendship Shawn has been hiding behind all this time. It’s good enough for Jimmy to offer unrelenting loyalty, but should things turn the over way, woe betide the man that stands against the one with the most money. The sins of the father though, are very clearly visited upon the son.
On Danny’s behalf, it is Shawn who initially incites the wrath of the Albanians by turning down their drug deal, citing the fact that he is now a legitimate businessman who no-longer deals in such commodities, because he has seen how cocaine messed up the lives of some of those closest to him back in the eighties. This is minutes after we have seen Danny snorting lines of cocaine, paying off corrupt cops, and then belittling Jimmy. To quote yet another useful cliché: if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. The cap fits though, and the theme of Catholic guilt sits so predominantly over this whole picture. Jimmy is constantly reminded of the crimes he has committed in his younger days, and before the story is fully set in motion, appears one step away from wandering into a Police station and admitting all of the murders he has committed, but got away with, mostly on Shawn’s behalf.
As soon as Michael is in the picture though he is given the lease of life that it seems he has been waiting for some time for. In a later scene, Jimmy storms into that same Irish bar only to shoot dead all of those gangsters who had been laughing at him that very morning. Above all though, director Collet-Serra is careful to remember who his audience is, delivering an action film that follows in the footsteps of ‘Takens’ one through three; Non-stop; and A Walk Among the Tombstones. Unfortunately in doing so he clouds what could otherwise have been considered a fairly decent attempt at a study of what actually constitutes a family: blood or loyalty.
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