Run All Night (2015), the latest addition to the ongoing Neesploitation cycle, feels like a film which Warner Bros. fell madly in love with at pitch stage, sought out an established action director and courted a major A-list star before grappling with the awkward reality that the damn thing simply doesn’t hang together. Every action beat and plot development feels completely mechanical; clumsily shoe-horned in to move the story along. Desperately wanting to be a brooding crime yarn, like Non-Stop (2014), the previous collaboration between Neeson and director Jaume Collet-Serra, it’s so mired in contrivances, clichés and baffling plot holes that they constantly get in the way of the appealingly pulpy set up.
Neeson is an ex-mob enforcer Jimmy Conlon, a raging alcoholic haunted by his dodgy past – a nickname like ‘Jimmy the Gravedigger’ suggests he wasn’t involved in petty misdemeanours. Estranged from his son Mike (Joel Kinnaman) a caring family man who has decided to lead a lawful life, their paths cross (for reasons too convoluted to get into here) following a double murder committed by the son of Jimmy’s oldest friend and ex-boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). Mike and his pops are forced to go on the run when things turn ugly, and so begins a dangerous odyssey over the course of one evening where old wounds are heeled as the duo try to avoid being taken down by Maguire’s crew.
Collet-Serra may be a dab hand at staging action (the gliding aerial shots which suddenly swoop down on the scene in question are thrillingly cinematic) but he’s battling with a flaccid, derivative script which commits the worst kind of narrative misstep by letting the audience witness Neeson’s fate in the opening moments of the film, therefore draining all available tension. Run All Night‘s saving grace is, unsurprisingly, its lead actor who remains as watchable as ever despite the material he has to work with. He has the haunted gravitas required for such a part, and even at 62, he looks like he could feasibly win in a tussle with a guy half his age. He’s somewhat of an anti-hero for a change here, and it’s the moments when Conlon reveals his true stripes and turns into a stoic killing machine that the film comes alive, albeit briefly. While the first Taken (2008) film was, in retrospect, a fairly conventional action flick greatly enlivened by Neeson’s presence, it’s beginning to look more like a fluke with every passing genre picture he signs up for.