There doesn’t appear to be much about the new action flick Run All Night that screams, “Dude, get off your butt and go to the damn movies.” Sure, Liam Neeson stars in it but that only makes it feel like something that’s already happened at least twice this month. Then, there’s that generic, straight-to-video style title. And a March release date tends to signal: boneyard. But don’t play off this thing just yet. Armed with a shrewd screenplay by Brad Ingelsby and directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, the movie is worth a shot.
Neeson, all hangdog charisma and barely pent-up fury, plays a veteran hitman — booze-ridden, soul-sick and regretful of his life of crime — who goes up against his boss (Ed Harris) when he’s forced to kill his hotwired, unpredictable son (Boyd Holbrook), along with two dirty NYPD cops. The movie doesn’t stint on gunplay, flying first, and hot pursuits, but it’s better when things simmer down to beautifully acted scenes that play theme and variations on the complicated dynamics between Harris and Neeson’s characters and their richly layered shared history. There’s also rock solid supporting stuff from Nick Nolte, Common, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Joel Kinnaman, who plays Neeson’s son, a young dad with a distant, tense relationship with his tough guy dad. The dark, grim Run All Night delivers the action goods while giving Neeson a chance to show us all over again what a great actor, and screen presence, he is. ***