Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) is a retired hitman with the colorful nickname “The Gravedigger”. Quite possibly, he’s retired from the Taken movie series, though I fear there are more of those in the pipeline. But Neeson’s basically the same character in Run All Night. The difference this time is that he’s protecting his estranged son Michael (Joel Kinnaman) rather than rescuing his kidnapped daughter or wife.
Everything goes south when Jimmy’s childhood buddy, mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) rejects an opportunity to facilitate a group of Albanians smuggling heroin into the country, brokered by his ne’er-do-well son Danny (Boyd Holbrook). Jimmy tells the Albanians to get the $#@$ out of the house, and when they show up at Danny’s apartment to collect on money they’d advanced him, everything falls apart and non-stop violence ensues.
Problem is, the Albanians hired Jimmy’s son Michael to drive their limo to Danny’s place. Wrong place, wrong time, and soon Shawn has his goons running all over New York trying to find, and kill, Michael and Jimmy, friendship be damned.
For his part, Jimmy has to decide between remaining faithful to his mob family, as represented by Shawn, and his true family, his estranged son Michael who won’t even let him step foot in their house and whose cute little girls don’t even know who he is.
That’s the interesting story that could have been the basis of this mess of a mob revenge thriller. Unfortunately director Jaume Collet-Serra couldn’t decide on a style so there are frequent, jarring comic-book pans across the city from one location to another that should have been accompanied with a deep voice intoning “meanwhile, across the city…”
Then there’s also the illogical inclusion of hit man Andrew Price (Common) who is as cartoony an assassin as you’ll find. He’s offered “double your fee” to kill Michael first, so Jimmy can know what it’s like to lose a son, but, consistent with the mythos of these sort of mob revenge films, he snarls “Conlon? I’ll do him for free.”
If you’ve seen any of these sort of films, you can now storyboard the entire narrative. Particularly when you realize that Neeson is playing, well, Neeson. Again. The mature action anti-hero. He might be great for all those boomers in the audience who are otherwise afraid they’re just old, but he’s getting less and less believable in the role.
And that’s just part of the problem. If Run All Night were just a straight mafia type film, something like Goodfellas or even The Godfather, that’d be fine. If director Collet-Serra had decided to make a film a la Sin City, that’d be fine too. But it’s a mess with dramatically shifting tone and increasingly unlikely mano-a-mano combat.
If you’re really into the genre, then you might find Run All Night worth the price of admission. Otherwise this is going to become yet another b-list Mafia movie on late-night TV and Netflix soon enough. Wait for then and thank me for saving you some coin.