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"RUN ALL NIGHT"
(2015) (Liam Neeson, Ed Harris) (R)


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QUICK TAKE:
Action/Drama: After saving his estranged adult son's life by killing his crime boss' thuggish adult son, an emotionally damaged hitman tries to protect his boy from those out to kill both of them.
PLOT:
To the criminals and police officers of New York City, Jimmy Conlon (LIAM NEESON) is a known hit-man who's long worked for his childhood friend turned crime boss, Shawn Maguire (ED HARRIS). While the likes of Det. Harding (VINCENT D'ONOFRIO) would like to put Jimmy away, no charges have stuck and he's a free man. Yet, the many lives he's taken, along with being estranged from his family, have taken an emotional toll on the man. His adult son, boxer wannabe and current limo driver Mike (JOEL KINNAMAN), wants nothing to do with him while trying to do the best for his two girls and pregnant wife, Gabriela (GENESIS RODRIGUEZ), all while helping mentor the likes of young Curtis 'Legs' Banks (AUBREY JOSEPH).

When Shawn's adult son, Danny (BOYD HOLBROOK), can't convince his father to accept a lucrative heroin deal, Danny ends up killing the dealer and his partner, a crime witnessed by both Legs and Mike. The latter ends up escaping from Danny and his buddy only to be tracked down again, their intent to silence him by killing him. But Jimmy kills Danny first, knowing full well what that will cause. And that's Shawn pulling out all the stops to get his revenge, including hiring a rival hitman, Andrew Price (COMMON), to take out both Jimmy and Mike.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
When it comes to what happens to childhood friends once the participants have grown up, the relationship usually goes in one of three directions. More often than not, and for a variety of reasons, such friends rarely, if ever, see each other after the college years. Others remain friends, but only occasionally get together. And then there are those who remain close friends throughout life, something that certainly gives them common shared experiences as well as something to reminisce about while rocking away on a front porch somewhere in the later years of their lives.

I'm going to go out on a limb, but I'm guessing not many end up like Jimmy Conlon and Shawn Maguire in "Run All Night." The latter (played by the always reliable Ed Harris) grew up into a local crime boss on the New York scene, and now considers himself a legitimate businessman. The former (Liam Neeson in all-too-familiar territory), and for reasons never explained, became his hitman, killing at least 17 people -- or so we hear -- during his "tour of duty."

As the film opens, we see him lying injured and bloody on the ground, a spent rifle near him, all as he comments on what does and doesn't flash before one's eyes at the end. In usual movie fashion, the story then rewinds sixteen hours back to explain how he got there.

Considering its premise and running time of nearly two hours, I figured the filmmakers -- director Jaume Collet-Serra and screenwriter Brad Ingelsby -- were going to rewind back to show those two characters growing up together, what they went through, and how they arrived at this point in their lives.

While certainly not an original notion (which would also hold true for occasional, interspersed flashbacks to said events), that could have given the film some added depth and texture to what transpires between the two men. Instead, we get a straightforward approach from that rewind moment.

And that ends up including the lives of their adult sons -- Joel Kinnaman as Jimmy's estranged son who wants nothing to do with him due to past family issues and is trying to be a better father and husband than his earlier role model, and Boyd Holbrook as Shawn's son who's following in his dad's criminal-minded footsteps.

Danny ends up shooting and killing two drug dealers, something witnessed by Mike who then becomes Danny's target. But before he can kill him, Mike's dad shoots Danny and thus evokes the wrath of his childhood friend turned boss who wants revenge. All of which unleashes that man's goons (including a freelance hitman played by Common), while a local police detective (Vincent D'Onofrio) believes he'll now finally be able to nail his long-sought quarry.

Collet-Serra, who previously collaborated with Neeson on "Non-Stop" and "Unknown," lets his actor slip once again into the sort of role most viewers now associate with the veteran actor -- protective parent with a gun. For the diehard fans of the actor in that familial action mode, I guess they'll like having another heaping serving of the same. For the rest of us who don't need to see "Taken 4" or higher, this will seem like reheated leftovers with the director trying to spice things up with some visual flourishes.

But here's the bigger problem. Almost none of it's believable, especially in terms of how slippery Neeson and Kinnaman's characters apparently are in terms of extracting themselves individually or collectively from precarious and violent moments and -- especially regarding Jimmy -- being able to take a licking and then some.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that both the police and Shawn's thugs are about as incompetent as they come in terms of catching or killing (respectively) their man. But all of that lessens the excitement of the many action scenes, while the drama between the two childhood friends doesn't ever get the amount of gravitas it -- and the overall film -- so desperately needs.

Throw in some dialogue that commits the cardinal sin of telling rather than showing character motivations (meaning it's too on the nose, especially in the father-son dynamics), and "Run All Night" ultimately runs out of gas and initial viewer interest long before things play out pretty much as most everyone will easily predict. The film rates as a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed March 10, 2015 / Posted March 13, 2015


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