Saturday, March 28, 2015

Review: Run All Night (2015)

Run All Night (2015)

Rated R for strong violence, language including sexual references, and some drug use

At seven years and counting since Taken, I can comfortably say that Liam Neeson's unlikely run as an action hero, as this generation's Charles Bronson, has started to get winded. Taken 3 back in January was a dud, and while this film was a bit of an improvement, it's still nowhere near Neeson's best action flicks. The man's still a great actor, and he was responsible once again for this film's best moments, but he should really consider taking his career off of autopilot and start picking out some better movies to star in.

The plot revolves around Jimmy Conlon (Neeson), a retired hit man whose son, a limo driver and amateur boxer named Mike (Joel Kinnaman), one night drives a pair of gangsters to the home of one Danny Maguire, the son of mob boss -- and Jimmy's former employer -- Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). The gangsters' deal goes south, and it all ends with Danny chasing Mike down, forcing Jimmy to kill him to protect his son. Shawn, however, thinks Mike killed his son, and wants revenge, forcing Jimmy to step in and protect Mike and his wife (Genesis Rodriguez) and kids from Shawn's vengeance. Meanwhile, the cops are after Jimmy and Mike as a result of Jimmy killing two corrupt cops on Shawn's payroll who were trying to frame Mike for Danny's death.

That was about as much sense as I could make of the plot, and this is just hours after seeing it, with the help of Wikipedia's article on the film. Even after sifting through the haphazard mess of its writing, I can still say that it all adds up to nothing in the end. There was a subplot of Jimmy trying to clear Mike's name with Detective Harding (Vincent D'Onofrio), confessing to all the hits he carried out in exchange for Mike getting off the hook, but it went nowhere and was undone by a video that some kid Mike was mentoring took of the incident, proving that Mike was innocent -- and that Jimmy didn't have to do anything. Nearly a third of the movie was spent on this, and it turns out it wasn't even necessary. It played out like something out of a Coen Brothers comedy like Fargo or The Big Lebowski about stupid criminals and equally dumb cops, only without a hint of such deliberate irony or humor. Nick Nolte's part as Jimmy's father was little more than a cameo, there simply to give some backstory to Jimmy that does nothing to flesh out his character. The whole scene, like so much of this movie, only served as pointless padding. Ditto for Genesis Rodriguez as Mike's wife, who had no purpose beyond giving Mike a family to care about, never even being put in any real danger as some sort of motivation. She failed the "sexy lamp test" -- i.e. if a supposedly important female character can be replaced with the sexy lamp from A Christmas Story, with no resultant impact on the plot, then whoever wrote that character is a hack. This is a thought experiment that shouldn't even have to exist but which I see way too many movies fail, this one included.

As for the cast, Liam Neeson was the only one who brought any fire, and even then, this is the sort of movie he can do in his sleep. The writing did him no favors, forcing him to pretty much build an entire character from scratch. Whatever sense I got that this guy was a retired badass ex-hitman came almost entirely from Neeson's performance, certainly not from the script and his dialogue. Joel Kinnaman, meanwhile, once again (after the RoboCop remake) proved that he is not leading man material, bringing little charisma to Mike that would've made him stand out from any other generic tough guy character. Maybe it's because I haven't seen him on The Killing, but I don't get why Hollywood is pushing him as a movie star. The rest of the cast, composed largely of assorted character actors who always appear in these sorts of movies, was pretty much on autopilot, with the exception of rapper Common as the assassin Mr. Price who's trying to kill Mike and Jimmy. As a strong, silent, seemingly unstoppable BAMF, he felt like he barely belonged in the film, but given how little the rest of this movie had to offer, that was a good thing, as he made for a convincingly badass counterpoint to Jimmy, especially during the climax that came way too late after way too much plot meandering.

That brings me to the nicest thing I can say about this movie: in bits and pieces, it works. The action is put together well enough, if unspectacularly, which is far more than I can say about Taken 3 and how it was ruined by its director's inability to properly stage an action scene. Director Jaume Colett-Serra's visual style can get overbearing at points, but more often than not, it gave the film some flair that you don't usually see in these sorts of gritty crime dramas. In some scenes where the actors are just allowed to do their thing, they shine, making the best of their forgettable dialogue. The film's incoherence means that it all adds up to nothing in the end, but occasionally, you get inklings of a much better film trying to claw its way to the surface.

Score: 2 out of 5

It may be time for Liam Neeson to consider doing "serious" movies again, because while he helps partly redeem this otherwise boring, half-baked crime thriller from its mess of plot problems, it's clear that his choice of roles has been falling into a rut. I can only recommend this to diehard fans of Neeson, and even then, I'd much sooner recommend Non-Stop, Unknown, or A Walk Among the Tombstones than this.

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