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.


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Damn prairie dog burrow!

Tremors (1990) (SPOILERS) I suspect the reason the horror comedy – or the sci-fi comedy, come to that – doesn’t tend to be the slam-dunk goldmine many assume it must be, is because it takes a certain sensibility to do it right. Everyone isn’t a Joe Dante or Sam Raimi, or a John Landis, John Carpenter, Edgar Wright, Christopher Landon or even a Peter Jackson or Tim Burton, and the genre is littered with financial failures, some of them very good failures (and a good number of them from the names mentioned). Tremors was one, only proving a hit on video (hence six sequels at last count). It also failed to make Ron Underwood a directing legend.

Here’s Bloody Justice for you.

Laughter in Paradise (1951) (SPOILERS) The beginning of a comedic run for director-producer Mario Zampa that spanned much of the 1950s, invariably aided by writers Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies (the latter went on to pen a spate of Norman Wisdom pictures including The Early Bird , and also comedy rally classic Monte Carlo or Bust! ) As usual with these Pertwee jaunts, Laughter in Paradise boasts a sparky premise – renowned practical joker bequeaths a fortune to four relatives, on condition they complete selected tasks that tickle him – and more than enough resultant situational humour.

I hate natural causes!

Body Bags (1993) (SPOILERS) I’m not surprised Showtime didn’t pick this up for an anthology series. Perhaps, if John Carpenter had made Coming Home in a Body Bag (the popular Nam movie series referenced in the same year’s True Romance ), we’d have something to talk about. Tho’ probably not, if Carpenter had retained his by this point firmly glued to his side DP Gary Kibbe, ensuring the proceedings are as flat, lifeless and unatmospheric as possible. Carpenter directed two of the segments here, Tobe Hooper the other one. It may sound absurd, given the quality of Hooper’s career, but by this point, even he was calling the shots better than Carpenter.

I'm offering you a half-share in the universe.

Doctor Who Season 8 – Worst to Best I’m not sure I’d watched Season Eight chronologically before. While I have no hesitation in placing it as the second-best Pertwee season, based on its stories, I’m not sure it pays the same dividends watched as a unit. Simply, there’s too much Master, even as Roger Delgado never gets boring to watch and the stories themselves offer sufficient variety. His presence, turning up like clockwork, is inevitably repetitive. There were no particular revelatory reassessments resulting from this visit, then, except that, taken together – and as The Directing Route extra on the Blu-ray set highlights – it’s often much more visually inventive than what would follow. And that Michael Ferguson should probably have been on permanent attachment throughout this era.

Who’s got the Figgy Port?

Loki (2021) (SPOILERS) Can something be of redeemable value and shot through with woke? The two attributes certainly sound essentially irreconcilable, and Loki ’s tendencies – obviously, with new improved super-progressive Kevin Feige touting Disney’s uber-agenda – undeniably get in the way of what might have been a top-tier MCU entry from realising its full potential. But there are nevertheless solid bursts of highly engaging storytelling in the mix here, for all its less cherishable motivations. It also boasts an effortlessly commanding lead performance from Tom Hiddleston; that alone puts Loki head and shoulders above the other limited series thus far.

I’m just glad Will Smith isn’t alive to see this.

The Tomorrow War (2021) (SPOILERS). Not so much tomorrow as yesterday. There’s a strong sense of déjà vu watching The Tomorrow War , so doggedly derivative is it of every time-travel/alien war/apocalyptic sci-fi movie of the past forty years. Not helping it stand out from the pack are doughy lead Chris Pratt, damned to look forever on the beefy side no matter how ripped he is and lacking the chops or gravitas for straight roles, and debut live-action director Chris McKay, who manages to deliver the goods in a serviceably anonymous fashion.

Why don't we go on a picnic, up the hill?

Invaders from Mars (1986) (SPOILERS) One can wax thematical over the number of remakes of ’50s movies in the ’80s – and ’50s SF movies in particular – and of how they represent ever-present Cold War and nuclear threats, and steadily increasing social and familial paranoias and disintegrating values. Really, though, it’s mostly down to the nostalgia of filmmakers for whom such pictures were formative influences (and studios hoping to make an easy buck on a library property). Tobe Hooper’s version of nostalgia, however, is not so readily discernible as a John Carpenter or a David Cronenberg (not that Cronenberg could foment such vibes, any more than a trip to the dental hygienist). Because his directorial qualities are not so readily discernible. Tobe Hooper movies tend to be a bit shit. Which makes it unsurprising that Invaders from Mars is a bit shit.

What's a movie star need a rocket for anyway?

The Rocketeer (1991) (SPOILERS) The Rocketeer has a fantastic poster. One of the best of the last thirty years (and while that may seem like faint praise, what with poster design being a dying art – I’m looking at you Marvel, or Amazon and the recent The Tomorrow War – it isn’t meant to be). The movie itself, however, tends towards stodge. Unremarkable pictures with a wide/cult fanbase, conditioned by childhood nostalgia, are ten-a-penny – Willow for example – and in this case, there was also a reasonably warm critical reception. But such an embrace can’t alter that Joe Johnston makes an inveterately bland, tepid movie director. His “feel” for period here got him The First Avenger: Captain America gig, a bland, tepid movie tending towards stodge. So at least he’s consistent.

Hey, my friend smells amazing!

Luca (2021) (SPOILERS) Pixar’s first gay movie ? Not according to director Enrico Cassarosa (“ This was really never in our plans. This was really about their friendship in that kind of pre-puberty world ”). Perhaps it should have been, as that might have been an excuse – any excuse is worth a shot at this point – for Luca being so insipid and bereft of spark. You know, the way Soul could at least claim it was about something deep and meaningful as a defence for being entirely lacking as a distinctive and creatively engaging story in its own right.

As in the hokey kids’ show guy?

A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood (2019) (SPOILERS) I don’t think Mr Rogers could have been any creepier had Kevin Spacey played him. It isn’t just the baggage Tom Hanks brings, and whether or not he’s the adrenochrome lord to the stars and/or in Guantanamo and/or dead and/or going to make a perfectly dreadful Colonel Tom Parker and an equally awful Geppetto; it’s that his performance is so constipated and mannered an imitation of Mr Rogers’ genuineness that this “biopic” takes on a fundamentally sinister turn. His every scene with a youngster isn’t so much exuding benevolent empathy as suggestive of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ’s Child Catcher let loose in a TV studio (and again, this bodes well for Geppetto). Extend that to A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood ’s conceit, that Mr Rogers’ life is one of a sociopathic shrink milking angst from his victims/patients in order to get some kind of satiating high – a bit like a rejuvenating drug, on that score – and you have a deeply unsettli