‘Run All Night’ movie review: Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman try to escape the mob

A solid Liam Neeson actioner with a crime drama twist and bolstered by a top cast, Run All Night doesn’t reinvent the genre but nevertheless provides an engaging enough ride. By this point, you know what you’re getting into with these things, and this one ranks among the star’s better recent efforts. 

Director Jaume Collet-Serra is quickly making a name for himself in the quickly-growing Neeson action genre, and Run All Night is a notch above both of his previous efforts: it’s a little more thoughtful (and plausible) than Unknown and Non-Stop, two straight-up B-movies that delivered the goods in no-nonsense fashion but didn’t give much thought to anything deeper. 

Run All Night, on the other hand, has a little more on its mind. Neeson plays Jimmy Conlon, an ex-mafia assassin and current hopeless drunk who opens the film in Bad Santa mode, upsetting the children and hitting on mafia wives at a mobster Christmas bash. As strained as this sequence is, it’s worth it to see the star dressed up as Santa and giving Billy Bob Thornton a run for his money. 

Most mob bosses wouldn’t tolerate Jimmy’s antics, but Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) has a history with the poor fellow: they grew up together, and Jimmy has loyally served him for years. Plus, Shawn’s got bigger problems to deal with: loose cannon son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) has arranged a heroin deal that’s about to go south. 

Jimmy, of course, isn’t the best father, either, and his son, Mike (RoboCop’s Joel Kinnaman) hasn’t spoken to him in years. Jimmy hasn’t even met his daughter-in-law (Genesis Rodriguez) or two granddaughters. Swedish actor Kinnaman is just as much of a lead here as Neeson, and he makes the most of his screen time, entirely convincing as the estranged son. 

Plot kicks into gear when Mike becomes a witness to a crime who might implicate Danny in murder. And so we have a pair of competing father-son dynamics, and Jimmy must choose where his loyalty lies: between the son who won’t talk to him and the mob boss he has faithfully served for years. 

While the plot may be straightforward, Run All Night isn’t strictly a black & white good vs. evil affair. Harris’ mob boss is genuinely sympathetic, and the actor has one dynamite scene where he details his anguish and lays it out on the table for Neeson’s character. Jimmy, by the way, isn’t the usual Neeson action hero, but a complex figure with a dark past who is still atoning for his sins. 

In that sense, Run All Night shares similarities to last year’s thematically complex Neeson vehicle A Walk Among the Tombstones, although it isn’t quite as successful as that film. Holbrook, by the way, plays a strikingly similar role in both movies. 

In notable supporting roles here, Vincent D’Onofrio is a detective who has been on Jimmy’s case for years, and Common (in one of the actor’s most striking performances) is an assassin Maguire employs to take out the father-son leads. Nick Nolte shows up in a strange (and uncredited) cameo as Jimmy’s brother. 

One quibble: Run All Night completely wastes the excellent character actor Bruce McGill, who appears in numerous scenes as the right-hand man of Ed Harris’ character but has maybe five lines of dialogue throughout the entire film. 

Fast-paced, slickly-shot (by The American’s Martin Ruhe), and dotted with some striking action sequences (that hotel block ambush almost recalls The Raid), Run All Night goes on about 20 minutes too long but delivers the Liam Neeson action movie goods in a better-than-expected package.


Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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