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Movie Night – 'Run All Night' holds viewer with fast-paced entertainment (March 25, 2015 issue)

Liam Neeson seems to be everywhere recently. Mostly, he has been seen in underwhelming action flicks where he defeats the enemy through a combination of quick thinking and superior skills. He’s almost always the good guy, the squeaky-clean knight in shining armor. While he is the lead actor of “Run All Night,” his character is anything but squeaky clean.
Jimmy Conlon (Neeson) is a washed-up has-been. There’s no other way to describe him. He’s an alcoholic with no family other than his estranged son Michael (Joel Kinnaman). Jimmy appears to be living off the good graces of others. His best, and likely only, friend is Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), an Irish mob boss. Jimmy is a former enforcer for Maguire and his cohorts. When Maguire needed someone dead, Jimmy was always the man for the job. His nickname was The Gravedigger.
Michael knows about Jimmy’s past. He knows what Jimmy did for a living and he refuses to allow Jimmy to be a part of his life or have any connection to his family. Neither Michael’s wife nor his two daughters have ever met Jimmy.
But circumstances thrust Jimmy into their life. Michael is a limo driver and he receives the assignment of driving two Albanian gangsters to the home of Danny Maguire (Boyd Holbrook), the son of Sean Maguire. Michael witnesses Danny murder one of the Albanians and Michael runs for his life. Danny tracks Michael to his home and is just about to pull the trigger and end Michael’s life when Jimmy shoots Danny instead.
What self-respecting mobster would allow his son’s death to go unavenged? Not Sean Maguire. He vows to come after Michael and Jimmy with everything he’s got, dispatching his thugs to any location where Michael or Jimmy might be found. Michael knows that his only chance at surviving the night lies with his father. Together the two are on the run, trying to survive by any means possible.
Neeson’s character is worthless when the movie begins. By the end of the movie he’s no saint, but he seeks redemption by protecting Michael and his family. It’s strange to see Neeson as a degenerate alcoholic hitting on women while dressed in a Santa suit with a kid on his lap. What’s refreshing about his character is that for once he’s not an invincible killing machine. He’s a man tortured by his past. A man who actually deserves the pathetic life that he was living.
“Run All Night” is all about action. From the minute Michael goes on the run the story races at breakneck speed to the conclusion. For the most part the action is logical and believable. Through the movie you see many of the undesirable aspects of the underbelly of New York City. From Irish mobsters, to Albanian gangsters and corrupt cops, “Run All Night” features many seedy elements of the big city.
Ed Harris is passable as the Irish mobster bent on revenge. He begins the movie claiming to be reformed and a legitimate businessman and by the end of the movie he is trying to wipe out an entire innocent family. Though he is menacing, the passage of time seems to be having an effect on Harris. Joel Kinnaman was great as Detective Holder in the TV series “The Killing.” He continues his rise in the industry with his spot-on performance of Michael Conlon. The rapper Common also has a fairly short but memorable role as a professional killer.
“Run All Night” is a dark, gritty crime drama packed with action reminiscent of “John Wick.” It’s hasn’t received much buzz or box-office success, but it is fast-paced, entertaining, and keeps you glued to the screen until all of the smoke clears.
Grade: B+
Rated R for strong violence, language including sexual references, and some drug use.