Film Review: RUN ALL NIGHT
RUN ALL NIGHT
Starring Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Vincent D’Onofrio, Common, Joel Kinnaman, Bruce McGill
Written by Brad Ingelsby
Produced by Roy Lee, Michael Tadross, Brooklyn Weaver
Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra
A funny thing happened on the way to the box office for Liam Neeson seven years ago, in 2008, when he starred in a genuine sleeper hit, a little crime revenge post-middle-age machismo blood lust action adventure thriller called “Taken.” The film exploded worldwide, became a huge, enduring hit and—for action and crime drama fans and macho revenge fans and all men past the age of 40—a validation that men of a certain age past a younger certain age can indeed be each of the following: valid, popular, lovable (to the extent that a crime or action thriller macho hero can be lovable), and likeable heroes, even at that certain age; capable of rescuing daughters and wives and mistresses and comrades in arms in distress; capable of re-connecting with ex-wives and ex-girlfriends (there’s always ex-wives and ex-girlfriends, and they are always angry); capable of re-connecting with wayward ex-co-workers who he is either alienated from or estranged from; capable of validating his manliness; capable of validating his general worthiness in life; capable of impressing the younger, clueless guys, who of course don’t know anything; and, sometimes, getting a job back, getting a huge payout, and maybe even getting the girl back!!
“Taken,” a huge box office success in the U.S. and seemingly everywhere else (estimated box office worldwide: $226,830,568, on a shoestring $25 million budget!!), suddenly made previously seriously dramatic actor Liam Neeson not only a movie action hero—but a movie action hero at the decidedly non-usual-action-hero age of 56. If you had sat in a Hollywood studio conference room in 2006 and told anyone other than the film’s quirky producer and co-writer Luc Besson that, “Hey, let’s make a movie and make Liam Neeson an action star at 56!” you would have been told to sleep in off and come back tomorrow when you’re sober.
But Beeson, who certainly carries an often-bizarro, off-kilter view of all things filmic—just consider “The Professional,” “The Fifth Element” and the original “Nikita”—forged ahead with “Taken” with Neeson in the lead, and, well, the rest is all post-middle-age action-hero revitalized-machismo movie history.
Neeson became a genuine action thriller hero star—in his late 50s; “Taken” inspired two mediocre sequels, neither of which should have been made; and “Taken” jump-started the action movie careers of a cadre of a group of other men of certain ages, prompting seemingly every studio to suddenly follow Neeson’s and Besson’s lead and start placing calls to every film actor in his 50s and 60s who they thought could carry off an action hero role.
Suddenly, all these actors in their 50s and 60s were starring in a long list of quickly-made action thrillers obviously green-lit and jump-started by “Taken’s” improbable success: Keanu Reeves (although some people think he is eternally 25 years old, in 2015 Reeves is actually 50 years old, you must know), Sean Penn (starring in 2015’s “The Gunman”—yes, you read that right), Bruce Willis (actually continuing what he had been doing), Arnold Schwarzenegger (continuing, too), Sylvester Stallone, Jean Claude Van Damme, who likely some people thought had died, Denzel Washington (who should know better—really, Denzel?), and a host of others.
“Taken” seemed to spark a whole new popular culture zeitgeist trend of these 50s and 60s men signing up, producing, directing and, most notably, starring in these action thrillers—running, jumping ,fighting, driving fast cars, falling, doing stunts, tearing their shirts off, cussing, shooting, kicking, yelling and spilling enough blood, sweat and guts to satisfy the blood lust of millions of screaming guys in theaters, and maybe a few women, too.
And you know what? That’s not all bad, in a certain way and on a certain level.
If the films are good—granted, that’s not always the case; well, it’s not the case most of the time with these films—this can be a positive aspect of filmmaking in regards to the avoidance of typecasting all men past 40 as fathers, grandfathers, or doddering, doltish, lazy, stumbling, older-men stereotypes.
It is indeed great, on several cultural, gender, sociological, physical fitness, health, psychological, aging, ageism and age-related levels, satisfying and gratifying to see men in their 50s and 60s looking and acting decidedly youthful, fit, energetic, athletic, spry, spirited and fully engaged in their surroundings on every level. That is a good thing—this shows that men of these ages can indeed be out there with the younger men, active, action-packed, ripped, tough, heroic and still in the game of life.
With a worldwide aging population and more and more people obese, inactive and in dire health because of dangerous, dire and destructive lazy and couch-oriented slugglish lifestyles, I’ll take a 56-year-old Liam Neeson running, kicking, fighting and shooting all the bad guys dead in cold blood any day. I’ll even take Sean Penn starring in something called “The Gunman.” I’ll even take Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis and every other still-alive action hero from the 1980s in—the first one only, please—“Expendables.” It’s not always reaching, it’s not always desperate, it’s not always pathetic.
But sometimes, or, perhaps, more often, now that the trend seems to finally be running out of steam and Viagra, the films are indeed becoming more reaching, desperate and pathetic.
Like Neeson’s latest, “Run All Night.” Could the generally terrible, and overall clichéd, stereotypical, formulaic, tired, sloggy, sluggish—and reaching, desperate and pathetic—“Run All Night” finally signal the end of a fun action run for Neeson, and his certain-age cohorts? Perhaps, considered alongside a slew of recent forgettable Schwarzenegger films that flopped horribly, a slew of Stallone films that flopped horribly, including the third “Expendables,” which was terrible, and “Bullet to the Head,” which was boring, some recent actual Neeson action films that came and went without much of a filmic trace, including the disappointing “Taken 3,” the horrible fifth “Die Hard” movie, and a gaggle of other similar flops, perhaps it’s finally time for the action thriller movie boys to pack up their expensive toys, leave the studio backlot and soundstage playgrounds, and get their little tushes back home in time for dinner with their wives, girlfriends, pools, fast cars and overflowing bank accounts?
And perhaps it’s time for these men to step back, take a deep breath, stop trying to prove themselves worthy, and, perhaps, take a good look at some serious, intelligent and insightful dramatic roles?
Neeson’s latest action thriller, “Run All Night,” is just simply a formulaic, clichéd, stereotypical, downer and somewhat idiotic sludge through the grime that starts off slow and dogged, and never gains traction, speed, or interest, and ends up being something else–perhaps a warning to Neeson in particular that it’s time for him to hang up the action run, and finally head back to serious, intelligent and important films? Because, after all, this is the world that Neeson inhabited and ably owned for years. Just look at his early resume: John Boorman’s classic “Excalibur,” “The Mission,” “The Bounty,” “Michael Collins,” “Schindler’s List,” the literary and non-musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” and “Kinsey.”
That’s the Liam Neeson we all miss. That’s the Liam Neeson that we want back on the screen. That’s the Liam Neeson who we should be watching again now. Liam—come home to your dramatic home, all is forgiven!
Oh, about “Run All Night,” the title of which could be a code for how you’ll feel while the film is running: this thing is just running all night. The film is so dark, dreary, dirty, depressing, grimy and negative, it’s a wonder why it was written, who it was written for (it’s not good for classic crime or action fans, and it doesn’t fit the mode of the better men-of-a-certain-age validation crime and action revenge thrillers, as it mysteriously lacks the elements required for the better films of these genres), who it would appeal to, and how anyone could care about the characters, the story, the setting or the clouded, muddled attempts at meaning.
Neeson plays a New York City organized crime hit man, Jimmy Conlon, who is down on his luck, estranged (of course!) from his family, co-workers (who are all mobsters) and life on the planet Earth, and struggling with drinking, cigarettes, keeping his mind, relating to people, and finding work. The latter is understandable for many people, of course, but in the context of this film, his work is killing people in cold blood for mobsters, so the viewer doesn’t really care about his work situation. And Neeson, oddly, doesn’t make the down-on-his-luck, stumbling, muttering, drunken mob hitman likeable. Like you could make a down-on-his-luck, stumbling, muttering, drunken mob hitman likeable.
Conlon’s only truly close friend seems to be Ed Harris’ mobster, Shawn Maguire, who, by his own admission, pumped enough cocaine into the city to ruin dozens, if not hundreds or thousands, of lives. Maguire is a heartless, thankless, cold-blooded drug dealer, organized crime boss and killer. Gee, director Jaume Collet-Serra and writer Brad Ingelsby, that’s not too likeable a character, either, you know? Yet—these are the two men at the center of the dreary, downer story, and, from the first act, no one cares about them. As the movie progresses and the body count adds up like, say, a typical Stallone or Schwarzenegger action film, the viewer cares progressively less for Conlon or Maguire. Thus, the viewer’s concurrent interest in the film itself also nosedives.
In a series of wholly unbelievable, thoroughly convoluted sequences of the story, Conlon shoots Maguire’s son dead—because Maguire’s son was about to shoot Conlon’s son dead. Got that? So—this is true—the elder Conlon calls the elder Maguire, tells him that he just shot and killed Maguire’s son because of the certain set of circumstances that just occurred, and Maguire unbelievably says “you know how this has to end,” which is apparently worldwide Mobster Movie Code Talk for “I have to kill you.” So Jimmy Conlon and his son, Mike Conlon (Joel Kinnaman), who hates his dad and shows it every chance that he can, run through Manhattan all night, dodging bullets, cars, dirty cops, estranged (of course) family members and anyone else who happens to get in their way. A seeming army of people—including a bunch of cops—get shot and wounded or killed, a stereotypical psychotic mob assassin is thrown into the mix, and the entire film devolves into one, huge, long, boring cat-and-mouse chase game that completely lacks suspense, tension, interest, common sense or intelligence.
The entire exercise could have been, or should have been, a one-hour episode of “Kojak,” circa 1975.
But as a feature length film, “Run All Night” doesn’t have the energy to carry this now-tired older-men-action-hero trend forward. The film, like the other recent flops in the genre, instead jumps the certain-age shark and pushes everything backwards.
Liam Neeson and Ed Harris, to their credit, do what they can with their considerable acting abilities to instill their drearily-written characters with real life, emotion and acting, but they are swimming against a dying tide in a dead red sea of diluted action movie blood and guts.
The stereotyped, clichéd writing and direction disappointingly overtake Neeson and Harris and even respectful vets Vincent D’Onofrio as a good cop (one of the few good souls in the film) and good ol’ Bruce McGill in a small role as a Maguire flunky.
If there is anything good, anything positive at all, from “Run All Night,” “Bullet to the Head,” “Taken 2,” “Taken 3,” “Expendables 2,” “Expendables 3,” “The Last Stand” “A Good Day to Die Hard,” and the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth “Fast and Furious” films, it is that they will force all of the men starring in these dreadful movies to– having proven themselves worthy and macho and alive and physically fit once and for all to the world for an impressive, good run–return to more intelligent and thoughtful films.
Perhaps Neeson can practice a new Hollywood conference room pitch, slightly tweaking his now-classic speech from the first “Taken:”
“I don’t know who you are as a director or producer. I don’t know what character you want me to play. If you are looking for a high-priced actor, I can tell you that I already have money. But what I do have, too, are a very particular set of acting skills, acting skills that I have acquired over a very long career in film. Skills that can make me a star for director and producer people like you. If you let me act in your dramatic film now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will star in another action film, I will find your latest action film, and I will kill you at the box office.”