Hard-drinking ex-mob enforcer Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson) is an irredeemable nobody and especially estranged father. Endlessly indebted to lifelong friend/mob boss Sean Maguire (Ed Harris), the bond between them is unbreakable despite the former’s worsening shortcomings. When one fateful night unites their respective sons Michael and Danny amid shady criminal dealings gone wrong, Jimmy’s left holding the smoking gun when circumstantial misfortune rears its ugly head. With Danny dead and the Maguire legacy short a heir, Sean’s left with no choice but to decisively exact revenge on Jimmy, his son and a family raised honestly outside of his father’s toxic influence.
As the latest in the annually perpetuated “Neeson-with-a-Gun” canon, Run All Night too comfortably coasts through its regurgitated substance to leave a lasting impression. Unlike Serra’s preceding Non-Stop, nearly everything lacks a palpable panache that transcends typical formula trappings, what with an A-to-B narrative doing nothing but introducing us to what the trailer did for the first third’s entirety. Engagement isn’t entirely absent as key relationships and impetuses are established, however the gravity of the situation becomes negligible as events unfold, twist and turn as they inch toward a coin toss conclusion.
For all of the redemptive “Don’t do it Michael!” self-martyr bullshit Neeson’s Jimmy peppers us with, none of it lands as emotionality rings hammy, unauthentic and ineffectual as such. Barring the eye-rolling trope perpetuated by the central ne’er-do-well’s efforts to be the father he never was – albeit under the literal worst possible circumstances – the script itself stuffs ten pounds of exposition into a one-pound bag. It’s not so much convoluted in this regard as it is drawn-out and ridiculous, elements like Common’s T-1000-esque Price entering the picture late in the game for the sake of simply fucking with our expectations. Even though the film does just this, the inherent silliness brought about by a hired gun with a night vision monocle detracts from the otherwise grounded true crime-heavy proceedings.
Despite the pratfalls I’ve outlined, Run All Night is mostly an exercise in non-oppressive R-rated suspense. Neeson, Harris and the gang are thankfully up to the task as solid performances overshadow their onscreen counterparts’ vanilla characterizations. As it falls victim to a considerable amount of ridiculous back-heavy shenanigans, Serra’s latest very intermittently exudes anything resonant by way of both poignancy and technical prowess. If you’re looking for a mindless, cluttered and violent foray into similarly themed Neeson-heavy territory, Run All Night is simultaneously middling and entirely forgettable. Additional props to Nick Nolte for still being able to tread the proverbial waters of celebrity.