By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Seems like Liam Neeson has been running all night since turning himself into an action star in the middle of his career.

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Not that he’s stopped appearing in a wide variety of genres.  But since 2008, the Oscar nominee for 1993’s Schindler’s List seems most strongly identified with his tough-guy persona in the Taken trilogy.

(2 stars out of 4)

(2 stars out of 4)

 

In Run All Night, another action thriller, Neeson stars as Jimmy Conlon, a fiftysomething Brooklyn hitman and ex-mob enforcer once known as “The Gravedigger,” now drinking a lot more than he should but committed to leading a lawful life.

But he finds himself up against his revenge-seeking former boss and buddy, the brutal Sean Maguire, played by Ed Harris, who blames Jimmy for the death of his own son.  That’s why Jimmy is trying to protect his estranged son Mike (Jimmy Kinnaman), who’s been marked for death by the mob and is therefore on the run, and the rest of his real family from his crime family.

Vincent D’Onofrio plays a police detective (one of the few involved in the narrative who’s not on the take) who’s been investigating Jimmy for three decades and is intent on arresting Conlon for his former crimes, while Common, the actor and hip-hop artist, portrays a hitman looking to take out father and son Jimmy and Mike.

Let’s face it: you’ll be hard-pressed finding anyone to root for.

Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra (who is reunited with Neeson, with whom he collaborated on two previous thrillers, Unknown and Non-Stop) works from a screenplay by Brad Ingelsby that unfolds over a single night, has too many contrivances and plot holes, moves his restless camera around as if he knows his material doesn’t hold up, and offputtingly resorts more than once to children in jeopardy.

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And Collet-Saura’s dedication to brisk pacing and momentum are not really well served with editing this frantic, even in action sequences.  It’s often difficult to tell just what’s going on because of the fragmented editing rhythm.

That said, given all the running and chasing and shooting and punching, the film does deliver its share of what you might call one-dimensional muscular entertainment.

Neeson, ever the watchable antihero, brims with world-weary gravitas as he delivers another appropriately and convincingly tough-as-nails lead, showing us not only the brains as well as the brawn, but the guilt and vulnerability and mortality as well.

Still, old pros Neeson and Harris are not exactly stretched with this material.

That Neeson has traveled this road a few too many times, that he’s too skilled an actor to set up shop permanently on Action Avenue, has apparently become obvious because it appears he’ll be switching thespian gears in Martin Scorsese’s upcoming Silence.

So we’ll fight off 2 stars out of 4 for the shallow, standard-issue, and unpleasant crime thriller Run All Night.  It packs a punch, but we’re nonetheless enormously grateful that it doesn’t do what its title threatens.

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