There’s just one thing in Run All Night which I’ve never seen before; half way through the movie, there’s a car chase where the bad guy is chasing a police car instead of the other way around. I forgot to be thrilled by the pyrotechnics, because I was thinking “It would be real easy to chase a police car, because everyone would be getting out of the way for them, and you’d just flow into the hole.” It certainly works that way in real life, as I discovered back in the days when I got paid to chase Greek ambulances.
I say the bad guy is chasing a police car, but I need to define my terms. Everyone’s a bad guy. Even the police being chased in the cop car are bad guys. Run All Night is just a big parade of awful people killing other awful people. And occasional swooping establishing shots which just made me glad that the movie was not 3D; I about lost my lunch even in 2D. Let me just try to get the hierarchy of bad-osity straight in my head. There’s Ed Harris. He’s the king of the Irish mob in New York. He must be the worst guy. No, wait, there’s his son. Who’s like the Prince Joffrey of the Irish mob. He wants to deal heroin, which Ed Harris is opposed to, just like every elderly mob boss ever. Yeah, he’s the worst. He wants to deal heroin, and he’s mean to Liam Neeson who’s - wait, hang on. Liam Neeson’s the worst. He’s killed more people than cancer - actually, he’s killed more people before the movie starts than get killed in the movie, and that’s saying something. His whole family hates him. Everyone hates him; I lost count of the number of people who took the time to tell Liam everyone hates him. No wonder he drinks himself to sleep every day.
Except, of course, that Liam Neeson can’t be the worst. Even when he’s doing his best to be awful and everyone’s reminding us what an awful person he is, Liam’s got that hangdog charm going on. Nah, Ed Harris’ son Danny shades it. He’s schwacked in the early going and has to get a whole lot of hatability out of the way in a short time. So he’s just awful in every scene. He makes the Albanian mob look business-like and reasonable. Then he murders them rather than give them a refund, and then gets to work murdering the witnesses. Enter Liam Neeson’s family; his son, Michael, - who hates him, of course - is one of those witnesses. So Liam has to go murder Danny before Danny murders Michael. Added difficulty; Ed Harris, Danny’s father is literally the only person in the world who can stand Liam Neeson.
And then the running starts. It’s kind of a grind, really. Liam has to kill pretty much the entire Irish mob while keeping them away from his kid. Michael is supposed to be one decent person in the movie, but suffers from the terrible handicap of being played by Joel Kinnaman, a perfectly good Swedish actor who keeps being the weakest thing in American movies with more experienced actors. Is Michael a decent guy in a terrible position? Sure, yeah, probably, but this is a movie with Liam Neeson and Ed Harris racking up body counts, so who cares? Also thrown in for no particularly good reason, Common as an unstoppable hitman with absurd toys; he adds about fifteen minutes to the running time and every scene he’s in ruins everything else in the movie for miles in every direction.
Because this could have been no end of a good movie. Liam Neeson as a killer tormented by his past; it’s long past time he did that properly. Vincent d’Onofrio as the cop trying to get Neeson to open up about his sins; I wanted so much more of that. Ed Harris as a kingpin with a debt to a brokendown killer and an out-of-control son? You didn’t need anything else. You didn’t need the Albanian mob, or drug dealing or anything else; just the slow breakdown of trust between two ageing criminals with a terrible shared history. In the quiet scenes, you can see how much Harris and Neeson could have done with that. Sure, it wouldn’t have been an action movie, but it’s about time Neeson stopped making action movies and started acting again.