Is there an actor alive who has more undeserved goodwill than Liam Neeson? He certainly seems like a pleasant enough fellow in interviews and commercials, and this “I’m going to do action movies now” turn has been enjoyable enough. But when was the last time he actually made a good film?
The first “Taken” was fun enough, but objectively kind of a terrible movie. Neeson’s roles in “The Lego Movie” and “Batman Begins” were valuable to the story, but it cannot reasonably be argued that Neeson’s performance made or broke either film. So what was it? “Kinsey”? That was 11 years ago. “Michael Collins”? 1996. “Schindler’s List” was probably Neeson’s last unimpeachably good film, and that was released more than two decades ago.
And for the past decade, Neeson’s career has devolved into things like “Run All Night” — mindless, point-by-point action flicks with no thinking required on the part of the audience, the actors or anyone even tangentially involved with the film’s creation or box office life.
In “Run All Night,” Neeson plays Jimmy Conlon, a gangland hit man who was once one of the most feared men in New York, but upon whom guilt and time have conspired to leave him an old, miserable drunk. Gang boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) keeps Collins around because the two men came up together, and Maguire feels a deep loyalty to a man who is both his friend, and a big reason why Maguire currently holds the power he does.
Collins is estranged from his son, Mike, an ex-boxer who is currently working as a limo driver while mentoring troubled youth at the local gym. Everyone is brought together when Maguire’s son — who is a wanna-be boss himself, as well as a world-class shithead — has a drug deal go south on him, resulting in the death of two rival gangsters, murders Mike Conlin witnesses from his limo. The younger Maguire tracks Mike to his home to kill him, but the elder Conlon intervenes and kills Maguire’s son instead, prompting a call for revenge.
Look, you have seen it all before. The moment you started reading this, you knew the outcome, and the film does not try to insult your intelligence by giving you any plot twists or meddlesome character development to get in the way. Everything that is supposed to happen does, exactly on cue. The action scenes are OK, with a police car chase and a scene in an apartment complex being the most gripping. But, for the most part, the film is just a chance for Neeson to use his gravelly brogue and shoot at things. I suppose we are supposed to care about Mike, but he is kind of a jerk, so it never really happens. The most empathetic person in the film winds up being Harris’ Maguire character, but since he is the person trying to kill the guy on the movie posters, it is obvious that he is not the one we are meant to root for.
While the story is utterly predictable, writer Brad Ingelsby could not even be bothered to get us there in a particularly believable manner. The entire third act takes a couple of thin plot devices to set up and is then resolved in a manner that is predictable and unsatisfying. There are some neat camera effects throughout the film, but they do nothing to hide some of the laziest writing to grace the screen in this young year.
Neeson seems like a great guy, and I assume he can still act well enough. He just needs to learn how to say “no” to a script. CV