Skip to main content

I'm the only one ever cared about you. And all of that ended an hour ago when you killed my son.

Run All Night
(2015)

(SPOILERS) I quite like that we’re being “treated” to this never-ending run of Liam Neeson thrillers, some of which aren’t called Taken. None of them have actually been really good, but for a spell several have fooled you into thinking they might be. A common factor in the better ones is Spanish director Jaume Collet-Serra, a director stylish enough, but not nearly auteurish enough, to make the unofficial trilogy he’s completed with Neeson feel nothing at all like an unofficial trilogy.  


Run All Night is the best of the three, and like the others it kicks off with enough gumption – for a good hour – to suggest this will be a non-stop, edge-of-the-seat ride into the unknown. Or night, at any rate, as Neeson’s ex mob enforcer Jimy Conlon finds himself on the wrong side of his friend and boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) and has precious hours to make things right. But then, the movie just sort of loses steam, never really quite fizzling out but making you wish you hadn’t got vaguely excited for its potential.


Part of the initial appeal is the calibre of the cast. Neeson, increasingly adopting the star posture of an elder, more hirsute Jason Statham but with less sense of humour, has no option but to raise his game opposite the likes of Harris and Joel Kinnaman as estranged son Mike. And the actual premise is diverting, as Jimmy, formerly Jimmy the Gravedigger, now a drunk haunted by his many acts of murder, shoots Maguire’s unhinged son Danny (Boyd Holbrook, who also appeared with Neeson in the also half-decent A Walk Among the Tombstones) dead before he can kill Mike, who has witnessed Danny’s anti-social antics. Shawn, only hours before comforting Jimmy and promising “Wherever we’re going, when we cross that line, we’re going together”, doesn’t even like his son, but as a father he loves him and so promises furious vengeance; he’ll kill Mike and make Jimmy view the evidence, and then he’ll kill Jimmy.


So it’s up to Jimmy to make sure Mike survives the night, with some dyspeptic bonding en route, plus altercations with cops on the payroll, encounters with ones who aren’t (Vincent D’Onofrio in a stock role, but still solid), and small but memorable roles for Bruce McGill, Nick Nolte and Holt McCallanay. There’s a gripping car chase, a cat-and-mouse on a subway platform, a bruising fight in a men’s room, and several conversations and meets between Jimmy and Shawn. But then Shawn calls in hitman Common, who instantly susses that Jimmy has a cabin retreat (because people in thrillers always have cabin retreats, all the better for a showdown) but singularly fails to finish him and his son off when he gets the chance.


The momentum is lost from this point, and Jimmy even has time to visit his ailing ma in hospital before heading for a shootout with Shawn, whereupon he dispatches his friend with surprising swiftness. That’s a pleasant surprise in a way (not so much that it leads to an entirely predictable aftermath with Common at said cabin), but more a disappointment as one was hoping for something meaty; why cast Harris if you aren’t going to make the most of him? Brad Inglesby also co-wrote the ultimately disappointing Out of the Furnace (although the fault there, giving him the benefit of the doubt, may be Scott Cooper, who ensured Black Mass was less than the sum of its parts), and there’s a feeling this could have gone a number of ways, but ends up just slickly forgettable, withdrawing from any tendency to weightiness the premise offers.


Collet-Serra has little inclination for such contemplation, of course. He’s all about the veneer, but he’s good with veneer. His scenic transitions are a step too far, however, as he lifts off from one point in the city and arrives at the next in a single extended shot. It’s attention-grabbing, but not nearly as arresting as it sounds, and also at odds with what is, in essence, a down-and-dirty family drama. He’s complemented in his mission by a strong, tense, driving score from Junkie XL, which only pauses for the obligatory inclusion of The Pogues (it’s set at Christmas and features Irish-Americans, but one wonders how much the latter was due to Neeson’s involvement and how much the former sprang from a desire to include the band’s most famous song).


Neeson’s making it a Collet-Serra quadrilogy next, with The Commuter lining up for release (that’s Neeson, commutin’ and shootin’). I have no problem watching another of their collaborations; they’re far more fun than the Takens and, Collet-Serra’s a veritable Scorsese compared to the likes of Olivier Megaton, but there’s a nagging sense these two might actually makes something great together one day, if they made a pact to keep their peepers peeled for a really strong script.


Popular posts from this blog

If I do nothing else, I will convince them that Herbert Stempel knows what won the goddam Academy Award for Best goddam Picture of 1955. That’s what I’m going to accomplish.

Quiz Show (1994) (SPOILERS) Quiz Show perfectly encapsulates a certain brand of Best Picture nominee: the staid, respectable, diligent historical episode, a morality tale in response to which the Academy can nod their heads approvingly and discerningly, feeding as it does their own vainglorious self-image about how times and attitudes have changed, in part thanks to their own virtuousness. Robert Redford’s film about the 1950s Twenty-One quiz show scandals is immaculately made, boasts a notable cast and is guided by a strong screenplay from Paul Attanasio (who, on television, had just created the seminal Homicide: Life on the Streets ), but it lacks that something extra that pushes it into truly memorable territory.

Your Mickey Mouse is one big stupid dope!

Enemy Mine (1985) (SPOILERS) The essential dynamic of Enemy Mine – sworn enemies overcome their differences to become firm friends – was a well-ploughed one when it was made, such that it led to TV Tropes assuming, since edited, that it took its title from an existing phrase (Barry Longyear, author of the 1979 novella, made it up, inspired by the 1961 David Niven film The Best of Enemies ). The Film Yearbook Volume 5 opined that that Wolfgang Petersen’s picture “ lacks the gritty sauciness of Hell in the Pacific”; John Boorman’s WWII film stranded Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune on a desert island and had them first duking it out before becoming reluctant bedfellows. Perhaps germanely, both movies were box office flops.

Piece by piece, the camel enters the couscous.

The Forgiven (2021) (SPOILERS) By this point, the differences between filmmaker John Michael McDonagh and his younger brother, filmmaker and playwright Martin McDonagh, are fairly clearly established. Both wear badges of irreverence and provocation in their writing, and a willingness to tackle – or take pot-shots – at bigger issues, ones that may find them dangling their toes in hot water. But Martin receives the lion’s share of the critical attention, while John is generally recognised as the slightly lesser light. Sure, some might mistake Seven Psychopaths for a John movie, and Calvary for a Martin one, but there’s a more flagrant sense of attention seeking in John’s work, and concomitantly less substance. The Forgiven is clearly aiming more in the expressly substantial vein of John’s earlier Calvary, but it ultimately bears the same kind of issues in delivery.

Haven’t you ever heard of the healing power of laughter?

Batman (1989) (SPOILERS) There’s Jaws , there’s Star Wars , and then there’s Batman in terms of defining the modern blockbuster. Jaws ’ success was so profound, it changed the way movies were made and marketed. Batman’s marketing was so profound, it changed the way tentpoles would be perceived: as cash cows. Disney tried to reproduce the effect the following year with Dick Tracy , to markedly less enthusiastic response. None of this places Batman in the company of Jaws as a classic movie sold well, far from it. It just so happened to hit the spot. As Tim Burton put it, it was “ more of a cultural phenomenon than a great movie ”. It’s difficult to disagree with his verdict that the finished product (for that is what it is) is “ mainly boring ”. Now, of course, the Burton bat has been usurped by the Nolan incarnation (and soon the Snyder). They have some things in common. Both take the character seriously and favour a sombre tone, which was much more of shock to the

Say hello to the Scream Extractor.

Monsters, Inc. (2001) (SPOILERS) I was never the greatest fan of Monsters, Inc. , even before charges began to be levelled regarding its “true” subtext. I didn’t much care for the characters, and I particularly didn’t like the way Pixar’s directors injected their own parenting/ childhood nostalgia into their plots. Something that just seems to go on with their fare ad infinitum. Which means the Pixars I preferred tended to be the Brad Bird ones. You know, the alleged objectivist. Now, though, we learn Pixar has always been about the adrenochrome, so there’s no going back…

No one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.

The Matrix  (1999) (SPOILERS) Twenty years on, and the articles are on the defining nature of The Matrix are piling up, most of them touching on how its world has become a reality, or maybe always was one. At the time, its premise was engaging enough, but it was the sum total of the package that cast a spell – the bullet time, the fashions, the soundtrack, the comic book-as-live-action framing and styling – not to mention it being probably the first movie to embrace and reflect the burgeoning Internet ( Hackers doesn’t really count), and subsequently to really ride the crest of the DVD boom wave. And now? Now it’s still really, really good.

I’m just the balloon man.

Copshop (2021) (SPOILERS) A consistent problem with Joe Carnahan’s oeuvre is that, no matter how confidently his movies begin, or how strong his premise, or how adept his direction or compelling the performances he extracts, he ends up blowing it. He blows it with Copshop , a ’70s-inspired variant on Assault on Precinct 13 that is pretty damn good during the first hour, before devolving into his standard mode of sado-nihilistic mayhem.

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

When we have been subtle, then can I kill him?

The Avengers 6.16. Legacy of Death There’s scarcely any crediting the Terry Nation of Noon-Doomsday as the same Terry Nation that wrote this, let alone the Terry Nation churning out a no-frills Dalek story a season for the latter stages of the Jon Pertwee era. Of course, Nation had started out as a comedy writer (for Hancock), and it may be that the kick Brian Clemens gave him up the pants in reaction to the quality of Noon-Doomsday loosened a whole load of gags. Admittedly, a lot of them are well worn, but they come so thick and fast in Legacy of Death , accompanied by an assuredly giddy pace from director Don Chaffey (of Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts ) and a fine ensemble of supporting players, that it would be churlish to complain.

You ever heard the saying, “Don’t rob the bank across from the diner that has the best donuts in three counties”?

2 Guns (2013) (SPOILERS) Denzel Washington is such a reliable performer, that it can get a bit boring. You end up knowing every gesture or inflection in advance, whether he’s playing a good guy or a bad guy. And his films are generally at least half decent, so you end up seeing them. Even in Flight (or perhaps especially in Flight ; just watch him chugging down that vodka) where he’s giving it his Oscar-nominatable best, he seems too familiar. I think it may be because he’s an actor who is more effective the less he does. In 2 Guns he’s not doing less, but sometimes it seems like it. That’s because the last person I’d ever expect blows him off the screen; Mark Wahlberg.