An aging hitman is forced to take on his brutal former boss to protect his estranged son and his family.
At this point when a new action movie comes out and it features Liam Neeson in the lead role as resident tough guy, you start to make jokes about what he could possibly punch in this particular film. After punching terrorists on an airplane, his daughter's kidnappers, tombstones, and a pack of wolves - it was apparently time for Neeson to punch some New York Mobsters. Thankfully 'Run All Night' works a lot better than that simple setup would make people believe. While far from perfect, it is a great film about the bonds of lifelong friendship and the responsibilities of family... with Liam Neeson punching people.
Career hitman for the Irish Mob in New York Jimmy Conion has seen better days. After a lifetime of killing, his life is in the toilet. He spends most of his time dead drunk and passed out in the mob's bar owned by his best friend and head honcho Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) and his bum of a son Danny (Boyd Holbrook). The consequence of being only good at one thing in this life is that Jimmy hasn't seen his son Mike (Joel Kinnaman) in over five years. Jimmy's criminal career is so far down the tubes that honest cops like Detective Harding (Vincent D'Onofrio) can walk up to him, needle him about his life of crime and get away with it because they know there's nothing this drunk can do about it.
As Christmas is just around the corner, people are trying to get ready for the holidays while Jimmy sits and drinks a lot more than he should. Trying to nail down a big score of his own to impress dear old dad, Danny attempts to cut an import deal with some Albanian mobsters to bring several tons of heroin into the city and corner the market. To do that, they need Shawn to give the okay for the use of his ports. When Shawn declines his son's request, Danny is put in the spot of having to bump off the Albanians because he's already spent their advance cash.
On this particular night, Mike just happened to be these Albanian mobsters' limo driver and witnesses Danny executing one of the men right in front of the car. To say this is a bit of a problem for Danny let alone his father is a bit of an understatement. Shawn calls in Jimmy to get his boy in line and not go to the cops. Mike reluctantly agrees but Danny, in a misguided attempt to show initiative, decides to take matters in his own hands. Forced to protect his son's life, Jimmy shoots Danny through the neck killing him. While he may have saved his son's life, Jimmy manages to put a price on both his and Mike's heads.
Shawn refuses to let the incident go as a matter of self defense and calls in every dirty cop on his payroll as well as the cold-blooded hitman Andrew Price (Common) to hunt down Jimmy and Mike. Since they can't trust the police to help them clear the situation, Jimmy must do everything he can to protect his son as they try to save Mike's wife and two daughters. As Shawn as his goons get closer and closer to their targets, Jimmy must take the fight directly to his longtime friend.
As 'Run All Night' opens, it's a flurry of CGI enhanced action trickery as the shot pans around freeze-frames of bullets whizzing through the air, bark from trees where the bullets hit flying around, and close ups of muzzle blasts. I was a bit worried since this is how the film starts while Liam Neeson talks about what it's like to die and the things that go through your brain in that moment. Thankfully, the high-tech shenanigans calm down and the film slips into a cool and comfortable grove of being a rough and tough action thriller. Written by Brad Ingelsby and directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, 'Run All Night' maintains a swift pace while knowing when to tap the breaks just enough to allow for some solid character development making this flick a bit better than your average "Liam Neeson Punches Something" action movie.
While the action beats are well choreographed and executed, it's actually during the quieter moments that this film earns a lot of bonus points. The absolute best moments are the few scenes in which Ed Harris and Liam Neeson share a quiet moment as old friends who know their time at the top is coming to an end. The father/son moments between Neeson and Kinnaman work well enough, but there just isn't the right amount of chemistry to make their situation feel real. In fact I kept wishing the film would find a way for Neeson and Harris to get back to a bar for another conversation since much of this film is really focused on that relationship. The father doing right by an estranged son elements work in their way to move the plot forward, but the real story is about the history Jimmy, Shawn, and Detective Harding share. If only they could have figured out a way to get these three guys in one room together, 'Run All Night' could have been epic.
For what it is 'Run All Night' works at setting up some genuinely suspenseful thrills. Common's lethal hitman is a commanding presence and keeps the chase element alive, but his actions are completely illogical. He's been hired to do a clean and neat job solving Shawn's current situation, but apparently "clean and neat" also includes stabbing and shooting any number of cops and innocent bystanders that get in his way. This is actually where 'Run All Night' bumps into some trouble. It's all part of Shawn's plan to pin the murders of the Albanian mobsters on Mike and Jimmy, so having your best killing machine knocking off innocents and leaving a trail of evidence that points in the exact opposite direction doesn't make a whole lot of sense. But whatever, the flick was still a lot of fun and a heck of a lot better than I'd expected.
As Neeson said during the press rounds for this film, his action flick days are coming to a close. Which is kind of a shame because as ridiculous as they are, they're still a lot of fun and better than what hits most screens. Well, maybe not 'Taken 2' or 'Tak3n' but you've got to forgive a guy for seeing a contract through to the end. 'Run All Night' may not be the best movie the actorhas ever been in, but he makes the most of it and in the end, it's a pretty decent way to spend two hours. If you're a fan of the main man with two fists of Irish furry, you should enjoy 'Run All Night.' If Neeson's action output hasn't been your pint of Guinness, this one probably won't make you a fan, but give it a shot just the same. Who knows, you might just like it after all!
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Run All Night' makes its Blu-ray debut thanks to Warner Brothers and is pressed on a BD50 Disc. The disc opens to trailers for 'San Andreas' and 'Entourage' before reaching the main menu. Housed in an eco-friendly case, the Blu-ray comes with a DVD offering identical content in Standard Def.
'Run All Night' offers a rather impressive 2.40:1 1080p HD transfer. Detail levels are strong and rarely falter offering fantastic glimpses at facial features, costumes, and background scenery. Colors can be a bit muted at times since this film is supposed to take place in the middle of winter, but was quite clearly shot in the summer. The little color grading that was employed was thankfully kept to a minimum. Over all flesh tones are pretty solid, but sometimes inconsistent as characters can appear pinkish and healthy in one shot, but deathly pale in the next. With that, this film almost entirely takes place at night so there is a lot of shadows and deep blacks throughout. Most of the time things are fine, but there is some crush issues throughout as any character that wears dark clothing (which is virtually all of them) can get lost in the black and become floating heads. All in all it's still a very strong transfer, but since only 34 gigs of data were used for this disc, there was a lot more room to uncompress the image and help mitigate these small issues.
Rocking a strong and imposing DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio track, 'Run All Night' gets plenty of surround sound kick. Imaging is fantastic - perhaps the best moments are during the action beats, but the quieter climax in the woods also plays well as the smallest footstep or breaking of a dry branch offers some nice subtle surround pop. Similarly when bullets zip around they impressively travel from channel to channel keeping things sounding tight and keeping you on edge. Quiet moments are equally impressive with this mix as conversations have a lot of impact - especially when Shawn and Jimmy discuss the situation in the restaurant as there is just enough background sound to keep it impactful. For as action heavy as this mix is, levels are nice and even so dialogue is never an issue to hear over booming gunshots or Junkie XL's sharp and thumping music score. All around solid audio that I simply can't find anything to complain about.
Shoot All Night: (HD10:26) A brief but interesting look at what it took to shoot the film in New York and at night.
Liam Neeson: Action All Night: (HD 6:09) The cast and crew talk about what it's like to work with Liam Neeson in an action movie.
Deleted Scenes: (HD 16:20) a collection of scenes that were either cut entirely or truncated because they didn't really fit the final film.
'Run All Night' is one of those movies where going into it, you have a pretty clear idea of what to expect. Thankfully this movie at least delivers on its premise of a hitman on the run with his estranged son. It's probably not the greatest piece of cinema out there, but it's at least fun and holds your attention. With a strong A/V presentation and a couple decent extras, I've got to call this Blu-ray recommended. Fans should be very happy with this release.