Liam Neeson has a particular set of skills. Since 2008’s Taken, that set has been mostly limited to kicking ass and taking names. There’s nothing wrong with that, though he’s done it enough to create his own sub-genre, the “Liam Neeson action movie.” Like any other actor whose created their own action genre, you know what you’re going to get with this kind of movie. The main question is what part of the spectrum will it fall on? Run All Night, the lastest Liam Neeson action flick, falls on the good side.
Jimmy Conlon (Neeson) is a drunken, washed up former hit man for his best friend, gangster Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). Conlon has given up everything in service of Maguire, including a relationship with his son, Michael (Joel Kinnamon), who just witnessed Shawn’s son committing murder. Jimmy is called in to smooth things over, but Shawn’s son, like most sons of mob bosses in movies, is a druggie moron who tries to kill Michael. With Liam Neeson there. If it’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that you just don’t mess with Liam Neeson or his fictional children. Bad things happen to those who do.
With his son murdered, Shawn pulls out every stop to find – and kill – Jimmy and Michael, including Price (Common), a meticulous hit man enamored with the idea of killing Liam Neeson. I mean Jimmy.
Run All Night has all of the requisite action required, but what sets it apart from lesser Liam Neeson fare like Taken 2 or Taken 3 is the … acting. It’s a scary thought, but with Harris in tow, Neeson gets the chance to show the world that yes, he is an Academy Award nominated actor who can do more than speak with a gravelly voice. He doesn’t set the world on fire, but it’s obvious Liam Neeson relishes the actor face-off with Harris midway through the movie. Even an uncredited Nick Nolte shows up to act against Liam Neeson.
Run All Night doesn’t reinvent the wheel, nor the Liam Neeson action genre, but it does offer up the badass sort of R-rated fights and shoot-outs that fans of the Taken-era actor have come to expect. Joe Carnahan’s grossly underrated The A-Team or The Grey are probably the two best films to come out of Liam Neeson’s resurgence, with Taken not far behind. Run All Night doesn’t reach those levels, but it beats the hell out of Unknown and the two Taken sequels, and with a movie like this, you can’t ask for much more than that.