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Violence is often portrayed as a cycle -- a circular motion of pain, anguish, and revenge. Run All Night isn't the first film to tell this sort of story, but it is one of the slickest contemporary examinations of vengeance through superior fire power. What's more, the film is some of Liam Neeson's finest blockbuster work in a good while, with Ed Harris matching him note for note, Joel Kinnaman continuing to make a name for himself, and Common just being a straight up bad ass.
Jimmy and Michael Conlon (Neeson and Kinnaman, respectively) are estranged, and barely see each other anymore. Yet for one night, each of them is going to depend on the other's wit and skills, as a ruthless mobster (Harris) is aiming to kill the younger Conlon. Over the course of 16 hours, the two will evade crooked cops, a hired gun (Common,) and a detective (Vincent D'Onofrio) obsessed with making the collar on retired killer Jimmy.
I have to admit, my only real exposure to Liam Neeson's work with director Jaume Collet-Serra was the underwhelming Unknown, released around this time of year four years ago. It was my disappointment with that previous film that made me nervous to even approach Run All Night, but it's also what makes me so glad I did. Collet-Serra's direction on this film is a blend of stylish edits, a wonderfully dark color palette, and gives us just enough information and exposition to keep the film running hot at all times.
Perhaps it's this direction that coaxes some fine performances out of the cast -- Neeson and Harris, especially -- as the film plays itself off as an action film that isn't just about set pieces, but actually has a story to tell (albeit, a bare bones story we've seen done before). Even the film's score is constantly buzzing with activity, which is wonderful if this is any hint of composer Junkie XL's work for the Batman half of Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice. The entire film hovers over the line of too much, and does a good job of staying on the right side of the fence.
There’s one blatantly terrible scene, though, and it is the reason this film was docked a full star off of its rating. Seriously, it’s bad. If only Run All Night delivered the same “essential” exposition scene, only without an elongated cameo from an actor whose delivery inspired unintentional laughter from the audience, this film could have been ranked higher. Unfortunately, that scene is there. With that actor. And the film grinds to a halt as we observe this sequence. While the film finds its stride again later on, it doesn't fully recover the momentum before that cameo hits.
This time of year, we're hard up for good movies – or at the very least, entertaining ones. Run All Night surprisingly manages to be both, and takes the audience on a thrilling chase through the darker, grimier parts of New York City everyone tends to forget exist. Will it hold up after the summer's inevitably superior blockbusters start being released? Most likely not. But if you don't see this movie in theaters, take comfort in the fact that you'll probably see it one afternoon on TNT, and ask yourself, “Why didn't I go see this one?”