I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Run All Night

tn_runallnightAlthough he’d already done HOUSE OF WAX and GOAL II: LIVING THE DREAM, it was ORPHAN that brought director Jaume Collet-Serra to my attention. I gotta admire a director whose movie I go to thinking I’m gonna be all ironical on it and then it defeats me with its audacity and genuine cleverness. So far that’s the height of his output, but I keep going back.

I guess I’d be watching them anyway, because his ORPHAN follow up has been three Liam Neeson vehicles in a row. UNKNOWN was a somewhat forgettable twisty thriller with some good touches here and there. Apparently I forgot to even post a review of it, but the part I remember liking best was some awkwardness between Neeson and Diane Kruger where they laugh because they’re in her small apartment and hear sex noises from next door, and that turns out to be set-up that her walls are thin enough for him to throw a guy through. NON-STOP was more my speed, a fun take on a confined-location-high-concept with some pretty interesting political subtext. Now the third one, RUN ALL NIGHT, takes the collaboration in a different direction. There’s less emphasis on the thrillery gimmicks and more on the character drama.

Oh, hey, this might explain it: it’s a screenplay by Brad Ingelsby, the guy that wrote OUT OF THE FURNACE. That’s another movie that uses badass genre elements but is more interested in exploring relationships than in satisfying expectations. (Though this one does have shootouts and car crashes.)

Please allow me a few paragraphs to wave a finger of shame at people who lazily say this is just a rehash of TAKEN. It is true that both movies star Liam Neeson. I can’t deny that one. But in TAKEN Neeson plays a very successful freelance security consultant who is trying to fix his relationship with his ex-wife, and then has to go to Europe to rescue his teenage daughter from sex slavery. His character Jimmy Conlon in RUN ALL NIGHT is a completely washed up alcoholic loser introduced waking up at a bar and being told he farted in his sleep. He was once a feared hitman working for his old friend Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), but now he’s kind of a pathetic hanger-on who has to ask Shawn’s douchey son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) for a loan and swallow his pride when he makes him do odd jobs.

Jimmy ends up having to kill Danny to save his own estranged son Mike (Joel Kinnaman from the ROBOCOP remake). So the movie is about him trying to protect this son who wants nothing to do with him from a revenge-seeking Maguire. It’s almost like it’s OUT FOR JUSTICE in reverse. OUT FROM JUSTICE.

Meanwhile he has to dodge a detective (Vincent D’Onofrio) who’s been trying to bust him for years, and also deal with the immense shame he feels over all the murders he’s committed. (A body count which, based on the figures we hear, must’ve just about doubled over the course of the movie.)

In my opinion that’s pretty different from TAKEN. He’s on a different side of the law and a different station in life. Yes, he still wears a leather jacket, but also a green army type one or a plaid shirt. Instead of a dependent teenage daughter who’s a little embarrassed of him he has an adult son with a wife (Genesis Rodriguez) and two kids and two jobs who hates his guts and shut him out of his life years ago. And the son stays in New York, doesn’t go to a foreign country, and is not kidnapped.

You know what, were you thinking of A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES? That’s the one where Neeson is an alcoholic at the beginning. And like RUN ALL NIGHT it has Boyd Holbrook as a weaselly guy related to a scary gangster who gets him into a mess. And that one has a smart young African American kid who he looks out for, a little bit like this kid Legs (Aubrey Joseph) who his son looks after in this one.

Yeah, I think that’s what you meant. Otherwise I’m afraid I’m gonna have to assign you to rewatch both this one and TAKEN before expressing opinions on them. I take this refusal to notice vast differences between action movies to be a sign of disrespect toward the genre and my lifestyle as an Action Aficionado (also the name of my new magazine, coming soon, I wish).

mp_runallnightAs in ROBOCOP, I enjoy Kinnaman’s presence and deep voice here. He plays a guy who apparently failed as a boxer but spends his days training kids and his nights working as a limo driver to pay the bills. He’s still angry for his dad not being there for him growing up, but ironically he’s one of those movie fathers who seems to just get two minutes a day to be sweet with his kids and listen to their excited chatter while changing into his work clothes. Mom has to do all the actual parenting and time-spending.

The boxing background explains why he can handle himself when attacked, but is never used as an excuse for a big fight scene. Some might appreciate that as realism or restraint, but of course I think action is not shameful so I see it as a wasted opportunity. There are some pretty good action setups, like when they’re trapped in a huge building in the projects with the power out and both a SWAT team and an elite assassin (Academy Award winner and former hat collector Common) gunning for them. They get to parkour down some balconies and sneak around in the dark. But unfortunately it’s hard to get excited about any of the action because it’s mostly the same old TAKEN style post-action we’ve come to expect that’s mostly shaky and close up. I guess I can at least give a few points to the final shoot out, which uses some slow motion and a cool gun POV shot (used in the trailer, of course).

But for me the movie mostly overcomes that weakness by truly being about the relationships between the old friends and the father and son, not just faking it. From the trailer you know that Harris is the bad guy, and you get the idea that they used to know each other, but it’s more than that. We first learn that when Jimmy is roped into playing Santa at the Maguire family Christmas party and makes a drunken spectacle in front of the kids. I expected the big bad gang boss to come down hard on him, instead he has his men make him a sandwich and give him a bed to sleep in. He really tries to take care of him.

So when Jimmy kills Shawn’s son the first thing he does is call Shawn. Not to apologize, even, because for once it was a justified killing. He just knows he has to inform him and face the consequences. I guess it’s the same as JOHN WICK in that one sense: it’s a fated thing, everybody knows what has to happen here. You killed my son, so I must try to kill your son, it’s nothing personal here, we all know the rules.

I like the scene where Mike finds out that Jimmy secretly watched his boxing matches back in the day. On one hand he’s learning that his father really did think about him after he left, and therefore must’ve really believed that he was improving his life by abandoning him. On the other hand he’s being kind of a dick telling him what was wrong with his boxing. So it’s not all hugs and forgiveness.

Some of these revelations from the past are interesting, but I’m more into the things that are only implied. Common plays a no-nonsense killer who looks like a Nation of Islam guy and works like a Terminator. When Shawn calls to offer him the gig he says “I’d kill that motherfucker for free!” It’s the only joy he ever shows. Ramadan came early. Unless I missed something we never get any clues about what specifically is between these two. But Common hates his guts. That’s enough for me.

(It might just be because he makes the bar smell like farts.)

I didn’t know Nick Nolte was gonna show up briefly as Jimmy’s brother. He’s as froggy and grumbly as in WARRIOR but now kinda chubby and with a crazy beard. Who knows what this guy’s been through, but of the two brothers he’s the one with his head on straight! He’s the one that’s been taking care of their mom, and he thinks Mike should trust his dad even less than he already does.

It’s those character moments and the emotional stuff that works best. Maybe the movie’s strengths and weaknesses are best summed up by this MAJOR SPOILER: the final showdown between Jimmy and Shawn is a dull and generic gun fight in a dark train yard, but after Jimmy shoots Shawn he gently cradles him in his arms as he dies. They mention several times in the movie that they’re going to “cross the line together,” which I guess didn’t mean Romeo and Juliet, Thelma and Louise or Reservoir Dog style, it turns out. Just that they’ll be sure to be there for each other whenever it happens. For me the action part is rote but the melodrama is very effective.

Have you guys ever noticed that Neeson’s nose and forehead look really weird in profile, like he was carved out of wood? I think that might be his secret. If his movies start to get boring you just stare at that. Toward the end I felt like I was pretty done with this one, but suddenly I realized I was more invested in these characters than I realized, because I was genuinely moved by father and son facing having to say goodbye to each other. It doesn’t hurt that I have baggage with my own father, but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself caring about this type of shit in one of these Collet-Serre/Neeson joints. Not what I expected.

acr_runallnight

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Monday, March 16th, 2015 at 11:27 am and is filed under Action, Crime, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

14 Responses to “Run All Night”

  1. This was OK. Very good first act as Vern points out. Personally I love how Neeson convincingly comes off as a pathetic loser that everybody else tolerates only because Harris tolerates him. Then when he shoots Harris’ boy, I like how Neeson is shot and framed as he walks out of the doorway. That loser is gone, that beast or monster or badass he’s been trying to bury for decades is loose again and he’s in his element. Hell when he has to pull the trigger at a poignant moment, look at Neeson’s face. He don’t wanna do it, but he gets his game face on, then afterwards it’s back to despair. Seriously Collet-Serra just seems to know how to milk Neeson’s small facial motions for all their worth. (Consider Neeson’s look when he recognizes a car. Or when he sees his taxi getaway drive off.)

    For that matter, how about Harris turning down a drug deal because he regrets that the coke he peddled turned most of his guys/buddies into druggies and he feels guilty about that? That’s a nice touch. Personally my favorite Harris moment in the film is when Neeson tries to threaten him with talking to the cops and Harris says nobody gives a shit about those old homicides, and basically lets him walk out the restaurant. That’s big balls confidence that you can catch this dude and his offspring later.

    Also, interesting ethnic role-playing switch isn’t it where its two corrupt black cops trying who picked up the white guy and trying to murder his ass? Reminds me of EQUALIZER last year having two white cops try to fuck over a random black guy, who ends up kicking their asses.

    But honestly I think my problem with this movie is that once the plot hammer drops and these two guys are on the run, I didn’t feel that much urgency or that any interesting obstacle-wise got in their way that they had to overcome. I mean I suppose UNKNOWN and NON-STOP both worked as Hitchcockian paranoid fantasies, with absurd set-pieces and plot twists for Neeson to plow through.

    Also I know I’ll be in the minority but after this and ROBOCOP remake, I just don’t have much use for Kinnaman. He’s too bland for my taste.

  2. flyingguillotine

    March 16th, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    I found OUT OF THE FURNACE dull, stagey and pretentious. Instead of an action thriller that works to develop its characters (a good thing), it’s more of a drama that makes semi-passable attempts to try to juice itself in the hopes that people will get tricked into thinking it might be something that’s entertaining to watch (a bad thing).

  3. Like Vern I enjoyed the characters history, but man is this movie bland. The plot relies on coincidences even more than Spider-Man 3! If you think about it, all the plot mechanics don’t even involve Liam. Its complety unbelievable and doesn’t redeem itself through it’s action scenes, which are muddy and boring. Common didn’t belong in the movie, Robocops a bore, and the ending is contrived. Sorry, I guess I didn’t like this one.

  4. The more I think about this one the less I like it. This movie is completely unbelievable. I come from a neighborhood like this one, and if someone that everyone knows becomes a drunk they are not treated with this level of disrespect and contempt, especially if that person has 20 hits under their belt like Jimmy “The Gravedigger” Conley or whatever! No way.
    Also, the stories that Ed Harris and Liam tell each other about the old days are just the kind of stuff I look for in a crime movie, and I don’t know if it’s the delivery or the writing (probably the writing), but in this case the stories seem so forced and fraudulent. In fact the one that Liam tells Ed in the bedroom is almost exactly the same story that Matt Damon tells about his brothers in Saving Private Ryan. It seemed a bit out of place in that movie, but in this one it’s just empty.
    I guess I’m used to seeing these Liam Neeson vehicles on cable or something so I don’t give them too much thought, but after seeing this one on opening weekend I kind want to give it the ragging it deserves.

  5. wasn’t neeson an alcoholic in “non-stop” too?

    it’s less good standard action movie trope and more boring predictable lazy character set up

    why not make the guy an oxycodone or meth addict. or he eats ice cream and fast food all day or he or plays video games all day in his underwear. i’m only half-joking. because that would at least be more interesting than alcoholic

    this is what i would want to see: a movie where they introduce neeson as a self-harmer, he cuts himself, just for the weird juxtaposition with him being a grizzled old tough guy with a disorder typically associated with teenage girls. hmmm, maybe not neeson, nic cage could pull it off

    but “alcoholic” is a tired used-up hackneyed tough guy addiction problem

    come on scriptwriters: we need protagonists with compelling addictions

  6. From my experience, alcoholism is so common it´s not even funny. So I don´t have a problem with it in movies. If it´s a cliche in movies, then that is a cliche in real life. The problem is how to present the addiction in a more truthful way than it usually is. The clichés are in the depictions.

  7. I actually wish they would portray weed addiction in a realistic light once and not just for comedic fodder. I know, stoners always say you can’t get addicted to weed, but believe me, I unfortunately know too many people who can’t even scratch their ass without taking a bonghit first and become weirdly aggressive and desperate when they have to spend just one day without it. If those aren’t signs of addiction, I don’t know what are.

  8. Just saw it and I really liked it, mostly for the character stuff, but I also didn’t have a problem with the action like Vern. Jimmy critiquing his son’s boxing career was a nice touch since Neeson was an amateur boxing champ himself in real life, so I could imagine it was something he knows about.

    “Unless I missed something we never get any clues about what specifically is between these two. But Common hates his guts. That’s enough for me.”
    I have a theory. We know Common’s character only as “Price”, so I’m guessing Jimmy knew his father and convinced him to name his son “Fisher”.

    Also, no, this movie isn’t a rehash of TAKEN, it’s SPOILER

    A remake of ROAD TO PERDITION

    1. Main character works for an irish mobster who he has a close relationship with and a lot of respect for
    2. Main character’s son witnesses the mob boss’ stupid son(played by Daniel Craig in PERDITION, actually named “Danny” in RUN ALL NIGHT) kill someone, prompting the stupid son to take rash action, putting the main character at odds with his friend and his organisation
    3. A freelance killer is hired partway into the movie to deal with the problem, and he pursues them even past the point where his services aren’t required any longer
    4. The main character is adamant his son doesn’t follow in his footsteps by killing people, even at one point urging him not to shoot the hired killer
    5. The climax kicks off with the freelance killer shooting the main character in the back while he’s in a supposedly safe location and looking out at calm waters in a moment of peace, and ends with the main character killing the freelancer before dying of his own wounds

    Also I suppose there’s a little bit of A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE with the father/son fears and uh, Ed Harris being there.

  9. Are they ever gonna make a gangster movie where the boss’ son DOESN’T fuck things up though? I feel like we’ve seen a lot of that lately. This, THE RAID 2, JOHN WICK…

  10. Ha, that’s a good point, Stu. These gangsters should either stop having sons or send them the fuck to boarding school and not try to groom them for the family business.

  11. I thought action was fair to passable, but I think you’re right when you say that’s not really what is good about this movie, and I did indeed enjoy it. The shots they got in between the cars in the chase were pretty cool, though.

  12. The “fuckup-son” goes for Stathams SAFE to some extent. It´s the son of the Russian mob boss that kills Stathams wife. And like Iosef and Uko, he is a real twat.

  13. animalramirez1976

    March 18th, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    My wife and I are fans of Joel Kinnaman from The Killing. In fact, I don’t even think she knows his name. To her he’s always “Holder”.

    For a movie with zero original ideas and that doesn’t do anything particularly well I liked this movie and found it completely gripping. It reminds me of a B-movie programmer from the 40s that I could catch on TCM, except the acting and dialogue are more realistic and less stylized. I find the cliches in these kinds of movies deeply satisfying, even though the cliches in, say, a Michael Mann film set my teeth on edge. Maybe because I relate to the idea of protecting your family and trying to make up for your mistakes more compelling than stuff like getting revenge or sticking to some macho guy code.

    Common’s character was definitely a big weakness. He was completely forgettable and just did not come across as cool. Maybe he wasn’t sufficiently fleshed out or maybe playing this kind of character just isn’t in Common’s skill set.

    For those who feel this movie was contrived, I must concede one point. It is highly unlikely that a New York City subway station would have a restroom that wasn’t padlocked, and if it did, it wouldn’t be the size of the executive washroom in The Apartment. That was highly contrived.

  14. The pointing out of Neeson’s farting habits whilst sleeping made me feel sorry for the guy, but at least he wasn’t in bed with a woman when it happened. Nothing worse than your new-ish girlfriend telling you you farted in your sleep and it was the worst thing she’d ever smelt. Whoops. But c’mon get over it, who doesn’t fart? And yes baby, I heard you squeeze that sly one out at the precise moment you flushed the toilet, trying to cover it up you sneaky devil. But I’m too much of a gentleman to say haha you fuckin farted stinky!

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