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Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Run All Night

by Andrew Hudak

Chappie, Unfinished Business and The Lazarus Effect also new to Blu-Ray this week

We have all come to know and love Liam Neeson as a total badass in recent years. Films like “Taken,” “The Grey,” and “Non-Stop” are all stories of smart, resourceful, courageous men thrust into difficult situations, who use their skills and cunning to tackle any problems that get in their way. The one thing they all have in common is a strong sense of self-confidence in who they are, what they’re doing, and why. Regret is not in their vocabulary. This is not the case for Neeson’s latest onscreen incarnation, Jimmy Conlon in “Run All Night.”

Jimmy spent the majority of his best years as a hitman for mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), who is also a childhood friend. The years of killing people—some of whom were very close to him—weigh on Jimmy’s soul. It also caused a rift between Jimmy and his son Mike (Joel Kinnaman). Mike is now a grown man with a family of his own who works at a local boxing gym and mentors young children whose fathers have also abandoned them. It’s his way of making sure that what happened to him does not happen to the neighborhood kids, and they at least grow up with some kind of father figure in their lives.

Mike gets into a bad situation with Shawn’s son Daniel (Boyd Holbrook), a brash, young hothead of the Sonny Corleone variety. Jimmy gets wind of this and has a choice: Let his own son die or kill the son of his closest, longest friend. Jimmy makes his choice, and as the title says, it is then time to run all night.



It was only a matter of time before Neeson played a tough character with this level of depth and backstory. Sure, the characters in his other movies had flaws, like alcoholism or family estrangement, but Jimmy in “Run All Night” is more complex than that. His regrets are two-fold. One is that he was not there for his son while he was growing up. The other regret is all of the names and the faces of the people he killed. He remembers them all. They haunt his thoughts. He feels terrible pangs of guilt. This is a man who looks back on the life he chose and has nothing but remorse.

It’s a hard burden to carry, and one that he does not want Mike to take on. As Jimmy helps Mike navigate the murky waters of corrupt cops and gangsters out for vengeance, his one rule is that Mike is not to shoot anyone. Jimmy knows where pulling the trigger leads, and it is too a dark and terrible place. He wants something better for his son. Jimmy may not have been there for Mike while he was growing up, but he’s there for him now, and if there is one thing he can do for his boy, it’s point him down the right path when it comes to killing. Jimmy’s position is that no good comes of it, even though sometimes it has to be done. It may save your life, but it will eat away at your soul.

The last movie I can recall that was a meditation this profound on violence, killing, and death was Clint Eastwood’s 1992 Best Picture winner “Unforgiven.” There’s a scene in “Unforgiven” in which Eastwood is trying to calm down a young partner who just made his first kill. Eastwood says to him, “It’s a hell of a thing killing a man. You take away all he’s got, and all he’s ever gonna have.” I am sure those words resonate with the character of Jimmy Conlon in “Run All Night.” While Jimmy may be more straightforward and not as thought-provoking in his speech, the message is still the same. And while “Run All Night” may not be as lyrical as “Unforgiven” since it is more of an action/crime drama, it certainly has many of the same merits. Buy it.


Run All Night

Also New This Week:

Chappie

The debate of human intelligence vs. artificial intelligence rages on in “Chappie,” the latest entry from South African director Neill Blomkamp. In “Chappie,” an AI robot created by genius developer Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) gets tangled up with small time drug dealers Ninja (played by a guy named Ninja), Yolandi (Yo-Landi Visser), and Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo). They need Chappie (Sharlto Copley) to help them pull off a heist. Wilson doesn’t like this and tries to stop them from teaching Chappie bad things, but he also has his hands full dealing with ruthless rival Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman), whose program for police robots is in competition with Wilson’s.

Like Blomkamp’s previous two movies, “District Nine” and “Elysium,” “Chappie” is metaphorical, and there are multiple messages here. The first is the question about how far we, as the human race, want to go in allowing our lives and our societies to be automated. If robots are the majority of the police force, then what happens when some hacker finds a way to shut them all down? Then there is Chappie himself, who starts off with the innocence of a child, but through the environment he is in and what he is taught, does bad things. This is the most important message of “Chappie.” Be careful what we teach our children while they’re young and impressionable, because once they become adults we may not like what we see. Rent it.

Unfinished Business

I really hope Vince Vaughn makes a strong comeback in HBO’s “True Detective,” starting this Sunday. He’ll need it after the train wreck that is “Unfinished Business.” I like the fact that “unfinished” is in the title, because that’s exactly how it feels.

In “Unfinished Business,” Vaughn plays Dan Trunkman, a man who puts his family’s well being in second place to his pride and quits his sales job to open up a rival company. Along with him, he takes long in the tooth Timothy McWinters (Tom Wilkinson) and young dim bulb Mike Pancake (Dave Franco). One thing leads to another and the trio find themselves having to go to Berlin to close a deal that will make or break the company.

The movie has two problems. Relating to it being “unfinished,” the sub plots with Trunkman’s children come across as really half baked. He has an overweight son (Britton Sear) who is getting bullied in school and a young daughter (Ella Anderson) who gets into fights with whoever picks on her brother. Dan doesn’t really have time for them, meaning that the movie doesn’t really have time for them either. The problems with his children are much too serious to be glossed over in a few scenes. There is one scene where Dan face times with his daughter and tells her how awful bullies are, not realizing that she is the one who is the bully. Once he finds out, he makes a flip remark and moves on. The issues with Dan’s children are superfluous and don’t impact the story in any significant way. Plus they’re more awkward than funny.

And this is problem number two with “Unfinished Business.” Nothing in the movie is particularly funny. Awkward is as good as it gets. Sure, awkward situations can be funny, but they need to be made funny through action and context. Awkward in and of itself does not equal funny. There are plenty of set ups that could have led to laughs if done well, but most scenes just fall flat and lay there. One scene in particular that takes place in the men’s room in a Berlin gay bar goes from awkward to uncomfortable to cringe worthy. That’s all fine, as long as it’s also funny, seeing how this is a comedy. But it’s not funny, and that’s death knell for a movie that is supposed to make me laugh. Skip it.

The Lazarus Effect

A scientific experiment goes horribly wrong in “The Lazarus Effect.” Then again, how many horror movies involve a scientific experiment that goes horribly right? Anyway, in the movie, Zoe (Olivia Wilde) gets electrocuted and dies. Luckily for her, the experiment being performed was to bring the dead back to life. Of course, it was only being performed on dogs, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and lead scientist Frank (Mark Duplass) makes the decision to bring Zoe back to life.

As things go in these movies, Zoe is not the same as she was before she died. She is tormented by images of a burning building and a little girl. She also develops supernatural powers, and her fellow experimenters, including Eva (Sarah Bolger), Clay (Evan Peters), and Niko (Donald Glover) all become frightened of her. They soon discover that they have good reason to be.

“The Lazarus Effect” offers little new in the way of ideas, characters, story, or scares. Some interesting use is made of pitch black darkness and quick shots of light, but a lot of what is on screen is standard amusement park haunted house fare. With the exception of the stunningly gorgeous Olivia Wilde, whose character looks hot even after dying, there is nothing worth seeing in this movie. Skip it.

More New Releases: “Spirited Away” and “The Cat Returns,” two outstanding masterpieces from Japanese animation company Studio Ghibli; “An Eye for an Eye” and “Hero and the Terror,” see how Chuck Norris got his butt kicking rep; and “The Onion Field,” analytical crime drama about the murder of an LA cop.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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