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Front Page - Friday, March 20, 2015

The Critic's Corner

‘Run All Night’ dares you to stay awake

I  was going to start this review by suggesting Liam Neeson stop making movies. Not because he isn’t a terrific actor (he is), or because he lacks charisma (he has charm and personality to spare), or because he seems to be tired of making movies (he still brings a lot of energy to his roles). No, I was going to suggest retirement because Neeson is essentially stuck playing the same role over and over and over again.

Ever since Neeson struck gold with the original “Taken,” he’s generally played a grizzled older man with a shadowy past and special skills that allow him to find and take out anyone, anywhere, anytime. His character is usually flawed; maybe he’s a deadbeat dad, or a drunk, or married to his work instead of his incredibly hot younger wife.

While I’m glad to see Neeson finding regular work and connecting with audiences in a specific way at this stage in his career, it pains me to see him being consigned to elevating mediocre films. Only “The Grey” stands out among several run-of-the-mill movies as special and extraordinary.

Neeson’s latest assembly line film is “Run All Night,” which features the deadbeat dad, drunken version of his stock character – an assassin named Jimmy Conlon. The story revolves around Conlon’s efforts to protect his estranged son and ex-wife from his former boss, Shawn Maguire, after he kills Shawn’s son.

What hurts me about “Run All Night” isn’t its mediocrity, or the fact that it’s strangely boring, but that you can see the bones of a compelling movie through its thin skin.

For starters, Ed Harris and Neeson have a couple of well written, well acted scenes together. In a better movie, these two would have made a classic pair of adversaries. I especially liked how Maguire truly wanted to keep his feet on the straight and narrow after turning away from a life of violent crime. He’s not just bad to the bone, but has more depth than the typical brutish crime boss.

The casting of Joel Kinnaman (“The Killing” and “RoboCop”), another terrific actor, adds emotional resonance to the role of Mike Conlon, Jimmy’s son. He and Neeson also have some good exchanges, and watching the protective layer of ice around Mike melt as he slowly warmed up to his dad would have been a pleasure in a good film.

Also, director Jaume Collet-Serra had flashes of brilliance while filming “Run All Night.” There’s a shot in which Jimmy cocks and fires a shotgun, with the camera anchored to what looks like the stock of the gun. This makes the weapon look stationary while the world spins around it. It’s a nice shot.

So what happened? None of these fine ingredients affected the flavor or texture of the final product. Instead, they get lost in a long, mundane shoot out in which men chase each other through houses and streets, grimace and shout at each other, and fire round after round after round in an endless shootout. I struggled to stay awake, and as I was walking out, a man told his movie companion “Run All Night” was the most boring movie he’d ever seen.

Although he was probably exaggerating, he was right about the movie being dull. I can’t even see “Run All Night” being a good rental at home.

I don’t want Neeson to stop making movies. There’s a reason filmmakers are snatching him up to star in their movies. I just want to see him in movies that return the favor and serve him well.

Two stars out of four. Rated R for strong violence, language, sexual references, and drug use. David Laprad is the assistant editor of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact him at dlaprad@hamiltoncountyherald.com.