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Mar 16 2015

Run All Night and the Liam Neeson Ass-Kicking Hierarchy

Michael C.here.It has been over six years since Liam Neeson reinvented as filmdom's reigning action hero by making "I will find you,and I will kill you"sound less like a threat and more like a statement of simple fact.Since then,a sort of unofficial franchise has formed around the concept of Neeson as a grim dispenser of violence.This series,not including would-be franchises launches likeBattleshipandThe A-Team,breaks down into three distinct groups.They are:

  • Pure,unadulterated schlock.Only the faintest trace of plot or character.Just Neeson methodically throat-punching his way through an unending supply of sleazy Euro-Villains bent on doing unspeakable things to his loved ones:Taken 1,2,3
  • Still schlock,but with bonus bells and whistles.Supporting characters,a high concept premise,and a plot of rapidly escalating absurdity.Slightly less throat punching than theTakenfilms,but still a lot of throat punching:Unknown,Non-Stop
  • Actual films of substance smuggled into theaters.Under the guise of another Neeson schlock-fest,naturally.Little to no throat punching.Occasional implied wolf punching:The Grey,A Walk Among the Tombstones

For a while it looks like the latest entry in this series,Jaume Collet-Serra's currently underperformingRun All Night,is poised to joinGreyandTombstonesin that elite third group...

It looks this way simply by taking the time to establish its gritty NYC setting and Neeson's character of Jimmy "The Gravedigger"Conlon,a career killer who has lived longer than he should have.Unfortunately,that hope evaporates when the action kicks into gear and the atmosphere of beaten down melancholy is revealed to be a veneer of complexity pasted over the same old crap.It has the bare bones of a story that might have been great in the hands of Dennis Lehane or Elmore Leonard,but which here is executed at a level that rarely rises above competence.Response to the film will depend on whether one is angry that it squanders its potential or grateful that the filmmakers attempted to do more than the minimum required.

The film introduces us to Jimmy as a boozy wreck,a professional killer who has avoided prosecution but who is nonetheless doing his time in a life devoid of happiness or loved ones.Neeson's only remaining human connection is Ed Harris's mob boss,his employer and lifelong pal.When Neeson's estranged son,an honest working man,runs afoul of Harris's no good offspring,Neeson must cross his only friend to protect his son,even if that son would prefer never to see Neeson again.

(It is immutable movie law that all mob bosses have hateful,fuck-up sons who can be counted on to set plots in motion with their stupidity and lack of impulse control.I assume they all hang photos of Sonny Corleone over their bed)

Director Collet-Serra insists on amping things up to a level of video game slickness,darting the camera around New York City in digitally assisted swoops and peppering in flashy show-off shots,like when we follow a gun as it is scooped off the ground,cocked,and fired,all in one fluid motion.It is meant to crank up the coolness factor but it only succeeds in killing any gritty integrity the first act was able to muster.A film can't expect to sustain aMystic Rivervibe if it morphs intoJohn Wickevery few minutes.That goes double for the deadly assassin Harris puts on Neeson's trail,an über-professional cipher of a character (played by Common) who would be more at home hunting Jason Bourne than Jimmy "the Gravedigger"Conlon.

More maddening still is the utterly boring way in which every scene is assembled.The climax of the movie involving Neeson single-handedly taking on a bar full of thugs cries out for some breathing room to build tension and add the believability of extended takes,but it doesn't get it because Every.Shot.Must.Be.Exactly.The.Same.Length.Be it a car chase or a conversation you can count on a cut every few seconds,a lack of variety that effectively robs the film of any rising and falling momentum.It's the reason why a viewer grows inexplicably bored even when it seems like a lot of stuff is happening on screen.

Neeson recently stated in aGuardian interviewthat his days as Hollywood's reigning badass are numbered.  Indeed,he is currently working with Scorsese on a film about 17th century Jesuit Priests.Despite the occasional giddy high,I can't say I will be sorry to see the curtain drop on this chapter of Neeson's career.When they write the history of "Liam Neeson: King of The Ass-Kickers"Run All Nightwill be far from the nadir,but its persistent mediocrity may have won it a worse fate.It's hard to imagine anyone remembering this movie at all.


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Reader Comments (11)

I recently re-watched The Dark Knight Rises,and saw Non-Stop for the first time.As an "action"star,he started out so assured and fascinating and really lent something to the work he did.Ten years later,he's become so manic and forceful and anxious as a "hero."In Non-Stop,there's nothing cool or reassuring about his demeanor on that plane,beyond the point of believability.

I dunno,I'm happy for him because $$$.But he really is selling himself short.

The glorious benefit of seeing Non-Stop is watching Julianne Moore do Diane Keaton.She's so good at it!Never a true comedienne but certainly gifted in that quirky,frazzled oddball way.I hope she's at the top of Nancy Meyers' list because how else could she re-capture the magic of Something's Gotta Give?

March 16,2015 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W.

Sorry,I meant Batman Begins,not TDKR.Ah,sequels.

March 16,2015 | Unregistered CommenterHayden W.

I think future Neeson biographers will refer to this phase of his career as the Mourning Years.

March 16,2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

Hayden W: Ah,two overcompensatingly anti-fantastical but otherwise excellent Batman movies,followed by a bitter aftertaste of a trilogy ender.Real talk: I've always found it fascinating that no one likes Robin enough to adapt him right with the resources at their disposal.Burton just went "Nope.I need to keep these around 2 hours and I don't want to sacrifice the villain content to introduce him."Schumacher instead went,"How about going through the basics of the Dick Grayson ORIGIN with a 20-year-old?"(Hey,idiots,I think O'Donnell could have been a good Dick Grayson if given the chance,but maybe this casting is a case where you SHOULD be going "We'll have him tell the origin,not show it.") And Nolan created an aged up and boring Frankenstein's Monster of the first three Robins.(From Dick he took the future cop job but not the fighting skill,charisma or long running partnership with Batman and the Titans.From Jason Todd,he took the street orphan background but downgraded the distaste for authority with a blander distaste for "corruption".And from the original Tim Drake he took the "I know you're Batman"hook,but with the actual detective work (Bruce doesn't call him out on his reason being,"I know because I stared into your soul"?And the comic book Batman is the sentimental one?) AND,due to the substantial age-up,the fanboy "I never knew a Gotham without Batman"subtexts (y'know,the things that made the original creation of Tim Drake so interesting) removed.) If it were me?I'd ask he open The Dark Knight Rises on two scenes: 1.The Riddler walking into his apartment,saying one line,"Simon Gruber,eat your heart out."(AKA: If Nolan thinks he couldn't do Riddler?He's just being lazy because Die Hard with a Vengeance is SO underrated.) 2.A kid (Tim Drake) played by Max Records interviewing Joshua Harto (Coleman Reese,who it turns out isn't actually Riddler) about what he was going to reveal eight years ago.Figure out the rest of the movie from there.

March 16,2015 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I saw Taken 3 and this.It's the movies and not Neeson's characterization that changes.

March 16,2015 | Unregistered CommenterSanty C.

Paul Outlaw--sadly,I would agree.Hayden W--LOL Moore as Keaton.

I hope Liam Neeson and Pierce Brosnan do another quirky revenge movie together like Seraphim Falls (which was pretty good until Anjelica Huston's character showed up and I never understood what she was all about).They're both self-described work-a-day actors,but with more talent than say,Gerald Butler.Neeson's choices lately totally read $$$,and I prefer him as the lead is something like Rob Roy (a criminally underrated movie I preferred to the more popular,other Scottish tale,Braveheart) or Michael Collins.And Brosnan should stick to interesting or stylish fare like Thomas Crown Affair (or the gentle Danish All You Need is Love) or wackadoo,like The Matador,instead of these thriller-lite movies like The November Man or the upcoming No Escape.

Remember when Liam was in a movie with Cher and Dennis Quaid as the mute homeless guy?I loved that movie,forgot the name,but he was excellent.

March 16,2015 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Pam: Looked it up.That movie was Suspect.

March 16,2015 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I am happy that Liam Neeson is going to give up making cookie cutter action movies,I wish that other aging thespians would do the same.

March 16,2015 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

Really like Liam as an actor,very upset with his political and personal freedom views.When you make your living selling "guns are cool"on all your movies,pure hypocrite .
It's a shame to see such a talented person be so ignorant.

March 16,2015 | Unregistered CommenterJoe C

Anyone else remember Darkman?Now that's some schlock I love to watch.

March 16,2015 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca

I'm out of the country and haven't been keeping up with blockbuster movie news so when I saw "Run All Night"on the left-hand column of the site,I thought it was a joke about Taken 3.Truth.

It's so hard to tell his movies apart these days!

March 18,2015 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

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