Liam Neeson will have you run all night

Listen to this article

3 out of 4 stars

Dear mobsters, gangsters, hitmen and crooked cops: please stop going after Liam Neeson and his family.

Haven’t you learned? It’s just not a good idea. He’s the toughest bad ass in cinema and if you mess with him, he’ll make you pay, probably with your worthless life.

It's never a good idea to mess with a character played by Liam Neeson. (Warner Bros.)
It’s never a good idea to mess with a character played by Liam Neeson. (Warner Bros.)

Remember those Albanian human traffickers from the Taken franchise who kidnapped his daughter and murdered his ex-wife? He killed so many of them there was no one left for a Taken 4. Have you heard from those scumbags from A Walk Among Tombstones or those hijackers from Non-Stop? Didn’t think so.

And don’t even get me started about those scheming assassins in Unknown who though they could steal Neeson’s identity and make him the fall guy for a deadly bombing. Those guys had about as much chance of succeeding as the Cleveland Browns with Johnny Football.

You see, if you’re a criminal, it’s simply best to avoid Neeson because the past says that if you’d don’t, you will be history.

Which brings us to Shawn Maguire, an Irish mob boss played by Ed Harris, who makes the fatal mistake of trying to kill Jimmy Conlon (Neeson) and Conlon’s estranged son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman), in Run All Night.

Maguire wants revenge because Jimmy killed Maguire’s son, Danny (Boyd Holbrook), who was seconds away from blowing Mike’s brains out because Mike had witnessed Danny murder a drug dealer. One murder leads to another and the next thing you know, the body count is escalating, because, well, it is a Liam Neeson movie.

Shawn and Jimmy used to be close, with Jimmy his former top hitman who killed so many people he earned the nickname “Gravedigger.” But all that changes when Jimmy kills Danny, causing Shawn to unleash all his thugs to take Jimmy and Mike out.

Rapper Common is fantastic as a hitman in Run All Night. (Warner Bros.)
Rapper Common is fantastic as a hitman in Run All Night. (Warner Bros.)

Shawn and Jimmy’s hatred for each other comes to life when they meet for a drink at their favorite restaurant about an hour after Jimmy left Danny in a pool of blood. The two glower at each other as Shawn tells Jimmy that he’s going to kill Mike so Jimmy can experience what it’s like to lose a son. Oh yeah, and then Shawn lets Jimmy know he’s going to kill him, too.

Note to Shawn: good luck with that.

Moviegoers pay to see Neeson kill people, lots of them. If they didn’t, would Neeson keep getting roles where he lights up bad guys like Christmas Trees?

You know how much the Taken franchise, Unknown, Non-Stop and A Walk Among Tombstones collectively grossed at the box office worldwide? More than $1.3 billion.

If you don’t like Liam Neeson’s movies, that’s fine. But you can’t ignore his star power, which carries Run All Night, a 114-minute action thriller that spans a 16-hour period in New York City.

Liam Neeson and Joel Kinnaman's chemistry makes them believable as father and son in Run All Night (Warner Bros.)
Liam Neeson and Joel Kinnaman’s chemistry makes them believable as father and son in Run All Night. (Warner Bros.)

Run All Night moves quickly, as the camera zips throughout the city, giving an audience a sense of intimacy. The movie is saturated with a sins-of-the-father story line in which Jimmy believes the only way to rekindle a relationship with Mike is to keep him alive without having Mike experience what it’s like to kill.

Kinnaman, who starred in last year’s reboot of RoboCop, does more than just complement Neeson. Kinnaman’s character is unrelenting on Jimmy, a degenerate father, husband and deceitful alcoholic who uses whiskey to drown his regrets.

At 62, Neeson pulls of a physically demanding role that’s full of fist fights and shootouts like someone half his age. Neeson’s toughness holds up through the film, especially in a bathroom fight against one of Shawn’s top thugs, and in another scene against a much more athletic hit man played by rapper Common, who’s a terrific assassin.

Don’t be surprised if Run All Night puts up big numbers at the box office. It’s the third time director Jaume Collet-Serra has teamed with Neeson, following 2011’s Unknown ($130.7 million) and 2014’s Non-Stop ($222.8 million). Face it, his movies kill.

Run All Night is not Neeson’s best work. But it falls in line with all of his other action movies, which means no matter how dark a character Neeson plays, he always shines.