Overview: After killing his boss’s son, an old hood (Liam Neeson) must try and keep his own son alive during one hellish night in New York City. 2015, Warner Bros Pictures, rated R, 114 minutes.
Violent Lives Begat Violent Deaths: While Run All Night was marketed as another shoot-em-up actioner from Neeson & Company, it’s much less interested in the glorification of violence so typical in action flicks like Taken, than it is the debilitating effects of violence on not only the victims but the perpetrators. Neeson’s character, Jimmy Conlon, is not the usual superhuman invincible star we’re used to seeing. He’s a decrepit, sad old man who can barely sleep at night from the memories of his past. His youth was filled with blood. In retirement, the blood has been replaced with regret. Conlon’s old boss (Ed Harris) talks about how he’s a “legitimate businessman” now. He believes that he’s moved beyond the life he led as a kid, but he hasn’t. You can dress up a thug in a suit and give him a ballpoint pen, but he’s still a thug. “We did it back then because we had to,” he says. Now he does it because he doesn’t have anything else to do. Violence is still all they both know.
Fathers: At its core, this film is about the relationship between fathers and sons. Conlon understands he’s damned in life, but he doesn’t want it to be that way for his son, Mike (Joel Kinnaman). Mike has a wife and two kids, a job, a life. Throughout the film, Jimmy won’t let his son shoot anyone, no matter the circumstance. He doesn’t want his son to lead the same life he’s led. Conlon knows that violence is a cycle one cannot escape from, and he doesn’t want his only son to be caught up in it. He looks at his boss’s son, a killer and drug dealer who ended up shot dead, and he wants better for his own son, no matter the cost.
Even Mike has his own patriarchal relationship, separate from his father. A small, fatherless, poor kid from the projects whom he trains at a boxing gym. Mike wants this kid to be safe, just like his own dad wants for him. All these men just hope their sons can turn out better than they did. That maybe, just maybe, there’s some hope for the future.
Redemption: Jimmy Conlon’s helping of his son is a redemptive act for all the wrong he’s committed in the past. He wants to make things right again. Growing up he was a lousy father and a criminal. Aged and wizened, Jimmy’s conscious has unclouded and all he wants is to show that he can do some right by everyone around him, whether it be his son or the cop who thinks he’s nothing but gangster scum. The only thing stopping Run All Night from being truly touching and great is its occasional outlandishness and lapses into convention. Seats need to be filled, thus there are many moments here that are present for no reason other than to get the audience’s adrenaline pumping. Yet the moments of quiet reflection and raw emotion make it all worthwhile.
Overall: While sometimes cliché, Run All Night is mostly a satisfying and hard-hitting action drama.