New Liam Neeson thriller has cool characters 

click to enlarge Joel Kinnaman, left, and Liam Neeson appear in "Run All Night." - COURTESY MYLES ARONOWITZ/WARNER BROS.
  • Joel Kinnaman, left, and Liam Neeson appear in "Run All Night."
Stories that take place over a short period of time, like Liam Neeson's new action-thriller "Run All Night," are well-suited to the movies.

Unlike epics that leap over months and years to get to the next plot point, shorter pieces appealingly focus on details or small events.

In the case of "Run All Night," the story takes place over the course of, yes, one night. And though it includes the obligatory fights, shootouts and chases, it's the character interactions that make it worth seeing.

Neeson plays Jimmy Conlon, an aging hitman who has stayed out of jail, but is haunted by his past crimes: "Just because I'm not behind bars doesn't mean I'm not paying for what I did," he says.

Jimmy's son Mike (Joel Kinnaman) has a wife (Genesis Rodriguez) and two daughters, and another child on the way. He's trying to get out from under his father's rotten influence and be a good person, working as a limo driver and mentoring a kid at the local boxing gym.

Jimmy's lifelong pal Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) is a successful gangster whose son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) is a live-wire who snorts cocaine and wants to start dealing heroin.

When a deal with heroin traffickers goes bad, Mike ends up at the wrong place at the wrong time, and Danny points a gun at him. Jimmy intercedes and kills Danny, but the evidence points to Mike.

So, even though they have been estranged, Jimmy and Mike go on the run from the cops and Shawn's gang.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra – who made "Unknown" (2011) and "Non-Stop" (2014), both with Neeson – isn't the subtlest of filmmakers. His action scenes seem obligatory and rather thrown-together, with clunky editing and lacking a sense of space.

Yet he adores actors and creates a world in which they interact in fascinating ways. These wiseguy characters grew up in the same New York neighborhood, and they all know each other, even the cops. They often pause for a conversation or a couple of jokes before trying to kill one another.

Neeson and Harris, especially, have a touching shorthand, and an unspoken bond, in their scenes together.

We are lucky that Neeson, now in his 60s, is the most successful and interesting of action stars in America right now. His humanity brings a much-needed depth to this genre and is far more effective than a dozen fights, shootouts or car chases.


Run All Night

Three stars

Starring Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Ed Harris, Common, Genesis Rodriguez

Written by Brad Ingelsby

Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra

Rated R

Running time 1 hour, 54 minutes

About The Author

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson has written about movies for the San Francisco Examiner since 2000, in addition to many other publications and websites. He holds a master's degree in cinema, and has appeared as an expert on film festival panels, television, and radio. He is a founding member of the San Francisco Film Critics... more
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