Run All Night: Our Liam delivers another surefire hit
He may think otherwise, but this thriller proves the Ballymena man can still pack a punch as an action hero, says Andrew Johnston
To say Liam Neeson has been churning them out lately is an understatement. It's only March, and already the Ballymena-born star's second action vehicle of the year is upon us. Neeson's latter-day filmography has ranged from the sublime (Seraphim Falls, The Grey) to the ridiculous (Taken 3), but the dynamic and exciting Run All Night proves there's mileage in the 62-year-old's tank yet, even if he indicated to the contrary this week, saying that he has "maybe two more years" of action roles left in him.
Reteamed with his Unknown and Non-Stop director, Jaume Collet-Serra, Neeson is on top form as the ageing Brooklyn thug Jimmy Conlon, a man with both an 'Eire' tattoo and a massive chip on his shoulder. Following a well-staged set of contrivances that results in the death of mob boss Shawn Maguire's (Ed Harris) son, Jimmy goes on the run from his former associates, as well as from Vincent D'Onofrio's dogged police detective, who has been itching to pin a string of murders on him for years.
The tortured hoodlum's only ally is his estranged son, Mike, played by Joel Kinnaman. Mike feels Jimmy's antics have put his family in danger, while Jimmy has to choose between loyalty to his criminal life and to his flesh and blood, pitching the pair at loggerheads throughout. But unlike, say, Bruce Willis and Jai Courtney in A Good Day to Die Hard, Neeson and Kinnaman make a believable - and even likeable - father-son double act. Indeed, Run All Night boasts that rarest of qualities for big, dumb action movies: characters you care about.
Much of this is down to the casting. Neeson reminds us why he became such a respected figure in Hollywood, bringing warmth and depth to his role, which, considering Jimmy spends much of the film either shooting people in the head or drunkenly boasting about the size of his manhood, is no easy feat.
Meanwhile, Kinnaman puts memories of the disappointing RoboCop remake - in which he portrayed the titular law enforcer - to bed with a lean, mean performance.
As the nominal villain of the piece, Harris also captivates the attention. He perfectly essays the conflicted Maguire, torn between loyalty to his one-time sidekick and the need for retribution. He lends a sequence in which he has to tell his wife their son is dead more weight than is the norm for this sort of flick, and his and Neeson's scenes together are a joy.
Elsewhere, Nick Nolte pops up to deliver some gruff exposition as Grandpa Conlon. He may be just 12 years older than Neeson, but Nolte's grizzled features help sell him as Jimmy's father.
For the two-hour running time, you're gripped by the twists and turns of the story. Collet-Serra's tough, unshowy directing style suits the material, and he makes the most of the New York City locations.
Writer Brad Ingelsby is a name to watch, too, having previously penned the hard-hitting drama Out of the Furnace and being attached to the upcoming US remake of The Raid.
But ultimately, Run All Night is about one man. If the diabolical Taken 3 had given the impression that Neeson's action hero game may be up, Run All Night sets things off at a sprint again.
It's almost a shame that the actor's next major project is a serious drama directed by Martin Scorsese.