Run All Night is an amaturely crafted and predictably written action thriller that fails to engage its audience on an intellectual level. Despite efforts to create interesting characters, the storyline eventual falls flat and never delivers on its premise.
The film’s plot is simple. After a drug deal gone wrong, Jimmy (Liam Neeson) is forced to kill Danny (Boyd Holbrook), the son of his best friend Sean (Ed Harris). In response, Sean goes on a vengeful path to kill Jimmy and his estranged son Michael (Joel Kinnaman). Though the plot has potential to tell a father-son bonding story, the relationship is never fully explored, instead focusing on non-stop action.
Jamue Collet-Serra, who’s previously collaborated with Neeson on Unknown and Non-Stop, similarly crafts an intriguing storyline that fails to deliver. In short, the relationships feel shallow, and in turn there’s no investment in the action. Unfortunately, Collet-Serra’s direction fails to make an interns film. The use of quick cuts and shaky camerawork is distracting in the midst of the action sequences, and feels fake in the midst of the more realistic style of filmmaking.
The realistic style also fails to succeed in its attempts to be suspenseful. The setting and tone set up an extremely gritty and realistic film, but draw a stark contrast to the off-color humor and ridiculous action sequences. The quick changes in tone and style form an incoherent film that never really finds its footing in terms of a distinctive style.
Liam Neeson is a veteran of action films, and delivers another one-note performance as yet another grizzled action anti-hero. Though Neeson is definitely a brilliant dramatic actor, in such films as Schindler’s List or Rob Roy, his latest string of films have been completely dismissal. Neeson is serviceable in the film, but the shallowly written character fails to improve the film. Ed Harris also gives a rather one-note performance as the film’s villain; while Neeson and Harris aren’t particularly bad in the film, there incredible talents as actors are wasted in the film.
The supporting cast is similarly shallow. Joel Kinnaman is fine in the film and has decent chemistry with Neeson, but the relationship never has closure and goes in a rather predictable direction. Vincent D’Onofrio shows up briefly as one of Neeson’s cohorts, but his efforts ultimately add nothing to the plot and begs the question of why the character appears in the film. In addition to that, cameos by Nick Nolte and Common are completely distracting to the overall film.
Ultimately, Run All Night is a generic and poorly made action-thriller that fails to be exciting or memorable. With a film with such a predictable storyline and standard synopsis, it’s remarkable that the film isn’t exciting or engaging. The film’s shallow writing and poor characters make for a disappointing effort from Serra and Neeson. Grade: D+