Since Taken, Liam Neeson has starred in a lot of similar action movies, and the law of diminishing returns definitely applies. His Run All Night director, Jaume Collet-Serra, was responsible for two of the least inspired, Unknown and Non-Stop.
A few months ago, Neeson took a step in the right direction with the neo-noirish, detective flick, A Walk Among the Tombstones. (Thank Scott Frank for that one.) Run All Night is more like that superior film than the aforementioned Taken knockoffs. What Run All Night calls to mind is Wayne Kramer’s underrated Running Scared; check it out if you haven’t.
In Run All Night, the Irish giant does not play a Bryan Mills-ish superhero. Instead, he’s a washed up former fixer, known as the Gravedigger, for his successful old pal and mob boss, Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). After Shawn’s bad egg son (Boyd Holbrook) makes one fatally awful decision, Jimmy Conlon and his estranged son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman, who still remains on the verge of something big after AMC’s “The Killing” and the Robocop remake), must run from the cops, both dirty and clean (represented by Vincent D’Onofrio’s Detective Harding), Shawn’s men and a hitman named Price (Common).
Run All Night does nothing particularly well, though it does most things stylishly. Collet-Serra overplays his Google Maps transitions but mostly sticks to the genre script. The movie works best when Neeson and Harris carry the workload. Their handful of contemplative scenes, including a rather tense dinner meeting, might slow down the action, but they ramp up the quality. Harris again proves he’s a rather formidable presence, besting the movie’s star when allowed. Neeson and Kinnaman also have a nice chemistry, and their size does not belie their cinematic kinship.
Unfortunately, the film lacks the lean musculature of the best pulp thrillers. Positively, by the conclusion, one finds it hard to recall where the time was wasted, but at almost two hours, wasted it was.
It’s hard to believe Neeson’s resurgent career can survive this nearly constant onslaught of similar, dark crime dramas. Run All Night might not be the nail in the coffin. But he's close to becoming a parody of himself, and if the Clash of Clans Super Bowl ad is any indiation, he may have already reached the tipping point.