Run All Night ***

Tense action drama features Liam Neeson in all his glorious Liam Neeson-ness

Is it worth $10? Yes

Bruce Willis and Harrison Ford must be pissed. They used to be the go-to for “older guy” action roles, but a string of big-budget busts has stranded their A-list status in movie purgatory. Now the ass-kicking over-50 roles go to Liam Neeson, who struck leading man stardom with “Taken” in 2008 and seemingly hasn’t said no to an action pic since. To his credit “Run All Night” is more drama than combat, but no matter: There are enough fistfights and shoot-outs to keep die hard actioners more than satisfied.

“I’ve done terrible things in my life,” Neeson’s Jimmy Conlon says in the opening lines of the film, and boy is that true. Murder mostly, but abandoning his family and being a terrible father also must be high on the list. For his entire adult life Jimmy served as an assassin for New York City mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), who’s hot-headed son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) is prime to take over the family business. Through coincidence Jimmy’s estranged son Michael (Joel Kinnaman) works as a limo driver, and Michael happens to witness Danny murder someone in cold blood. Michael and Danny fight, ultimately ending with Jimmy killing Danny.

Michael – bless his heart – is one of those stupidly virtuous people who believes the police ensure law and order. He obviously does not know what kind of movie he is in. Corrupt cops frame him for Danny’s murder, which prompts Jimmy to rescue Michael, leading to the father and son going on the lam trying to survive with all of Shawn’s men after them. Shawn even hires a relentless assassin named Price (Common) to finish them off; Price is the kind of guy who uses a red target light from his gun to alert everyone in the vicinity that he’s there, so you know he means business. In the backdrop of it all are Michael’s pregnant wife (Genesis Rodriguez) and their two daughters, all of whom are now endangered.

For as much as the movie tries to depict a gritty and grim reality, director Jaume Collet-Serra (“Unknown”) isn’t afraid of the absurd. Example: Jimmy and Shawn have lengthy sit-down chats even after they’ve declared war on one another, and Jimmy always escapes with ease. (Neeson and Harris’ acting in these scenes is exceptional, but this gets lost in the inanity of the scenario.) With Shawn’s goons this inept, it is no wonder Jimmy is later able to go to Shawn’s central hangout and wreak havoc. He does most of this, by the way, using a six-shooter revolver, because apparently it’s 1874 and he’s in the Old West.

Let’s be honest though: We left credulity behind when we entered the theater. Neeson’s the hero, so writer Brad Ingelsby’s (“Out of the Furnace”) plot will inevitably go out of its way to make Jimmy’s life difficult and unrealistic.

Okay, “Run All Night” isn’t great. But there’s enough in the camaraderie between Neeson and Harris, and in the well-staged action sequences – particularly a car chase and inside a large apartment complex – to satisfy even the most hardened of cynics. If nothing else, for Neeson’s sake at least it’s not as bad as “A Good Day to Die Hard” and “Cowboys & Aliens.”

Did you know?
In real life one of Neeson’s sons is also named Michael.

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