Liam Neeson, the hardest working actor around

Liam Neeson, the hardest working actor around

Run All Night

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ed Harris

Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra

Rated: R

 

Liam Neeson has to be the hardest working actor around. It all began when he jumped off in Taken, which spawned two sequels. To that he added Non Stop and Walk Among the Tombstones. All gritty action movies with Neeson cast as the enforcer—either lawful or otherwise—who has issues.

 The director of this, Jaume Collet-Serra, also directed Neeson in Non Stop where he played a sky marshal who drinks on the job and winds up getting framed for an in-flight murder. It was a weak premise that went to ridiculous lengths to stay aloft with Neeson gallantly trying to hold it up single-handedly. I didn’t much care for it.

 This second time around for director and star is a charm albeit a gritty, intense and dark action picture with some depth thanks to the complicated relationships in the life of Neeson’s character, Jimmy Conlon. Conlon is an aging hit man who has taken to heavy drinking to assuage the nightmares of the 18 people he’s killed over the years at the behest of his boss Shawn Maguire (the always wonderful Ed Harris). These two go way back as the movie establishes early on, but that ends when Jimmy’s estranged son witnesses Shawn’s son murder two people.

 While Shawn’s son, Danny (Boyd Holbrook who also starred with Neeson in Walk Among the Tombstones) is a punk, coke snorting, wannbe gangster Jimmy’s son is the polar opposite. Mike (Joel Kinnaman) is a hardworking chauffeur with a family who eschews everything about his father and his way of life. It’s the movie’s weakest link how the two sons cross paths on this particular night. It’s a big leap over mere coincidence, but what transpires will leave both paying for the sins of the fathers.

 What happens leaves the elder Conlon and Maguire at such odds there can be no good outcome. The scene between Neeson and Harris that sets up the night of pursuit that follows burns with intensity as the two rehash their life of crime and Maguire swears that Jimmy’s son will not see daylight.

 Maguire is a fascinating take on the old school gangster who lives by a code few could understand. Just a few scenes before he hires a hi-tech hit man (Common) to kill Mike, he turned down a ruthless Croatian heroin dealer’s offer to move his product through New York. Maguire tells him heroin is bad stuff and he wants no part of it—a chilling dichotomy of a man who makes his own rules.

 Both Neeson and Harris are a bit past the point of the leading man roles that come with the vitality and good looks of their younger selves. Both are grizzled, world weary souls here who are almost begging for a way out of their lives: Maguire by doing good deeds and Conlon by drinking himself into nightly stupors in his sad, sparse apartment.

 Collet-Serra is a director that certainly knows his way around staging great action. This is filled with foot chases, car chases, burning buildings and other general mayhem all filmed after dark in and around Manhattan as the characters traverse the city in search of each other.

 Common fresh from Selma and his Oscar win for best song plays a super bad assassin possessed with a stone cold calm and makes the most out of the small role. Texas-born character actor Bruce McGill pops up as Maguire’s second in command and Vincent D’Onofrio takes the part of the sympathetic cop.

 Collet-Serra’s smart, stylized direction makes this one stand out as much for its fast-pace and great camera work as for the performances of Nesson and Harris.

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