Here’s Liam Neeson promoting Run All Night in Madrid today.
Run All Night is the third team-up of director Jaume Collet-Sera and Liam Neeson, following Unknown and Non-Stop, and it is the least satisfying of the Not Taken, But Like Taken trilogy. And like the actual Taken trilogy, the Not Taken, But Like Taken trilogy gets worse with every installment. Audiences back this up as they did not care for Run All Night, either. On a technical level, it’s fine. Collet-Sera offers some competent if uninspired action sequences, and there is some pleasure to be derived from watching a cohort of talented actors including Neeson, Ed Harris, and Vincent D’Onofrio work. Common pops up and makes everything better during his brief screentime, as is his wont—he’s so compelling on screen. Joel Kinnaman, meanwhile, is not compelling at all, and his dead-eyed performance is a little concerning as he landed that role in Suicide Squad that no one else wanted. Can we all agree to not make this guy a thing?
The main problem with Run All Night is just that it’s boring. We’ve seen enough Liam Neeson Revenge Man movies to know how they work and this one is particularly interchangeable with any of the others. Neeson plays a shady guy, his family is threatened, he saves his family through his shadiness. Roll credits. Because I was bored while watching Run All Night I started thinking about Other Stuff, and that’s when I realized that this movie is straight out of the 1980s Codified Prejudice Playbook. In the 80s there were a bunch of movies, including Back to the Future and Teen Wolf, that sought to reassure white audiences of their importance in a time when black culture was moving into the mainstream.
There’s all kinds of codified bullsh*t in those movies, like Marty McFly being the one to teach Chuck Barry the guitar licks to “Johnny B. Goode”, thus rewriting rock and roll as the invention of a white guy—as if Elvis’s legacy isn’t enough to deal with. Or in Teen Wolf, when mediocre athlete Scott Howard plays basketball as the wolf, suddenly he can dunk on everybody, but in the end, it’s just normal Scott playing with good, sound fundamentals—none of that flashy dunking business—that wins the game. Don’t worry white people, you’re still best! Well Run All Night is the action movie version of that.
Neeson stars as Jimmy, a hitman for the Irish mob, and Harris is Sean, the leader of said mob. They’re lifelong scumbags and best friends who are set against each other when Sean’s son tries to murder Jimmy’s because he witnessed a murder. Except Jimmy kills the kid first, and then Sean instigates a revenge manhunt to wipe out Jimmy and his son—who hates him by the way. This entire movie consists of only two scenes: 1) Someone bitching at or about their dad, and 2) destruction. This all kicks off because Sean doesn’t want to go through with a drug deal his son arranged with some eastern European mob types.
Sean laments the good ole days in which being in the mob meant only dealing with racketeering, gambling, prostitution, blackmail, murder, arson, and extortion. Forget this drug business, remember when all we had to deal with was running hookers out front and dice in the back, in between shaking down the neighborhood and murdering anyone who didn’t pay up? Now it’s all this goddamned dope from the furriners!
The subtext is really weird organized crime xenophobia and racism. We’re supposed to buy into this honor amongst thieves bullsh*t narrative but Jimmy and Sean are MONSTERS, and at least one of them raised a monster son. And they spend a lot of time pining for the olden days, back when they didn’t have to talk to any weird-talkin’ European [insert ethnic slur here]. Run All Night is the modern-day version of those codified 80s movies, reassuring white people that yes, things really were better when you were in charge, back before these [insert ethnic slur here] interlopers came along and mucked everything up. Except in this case it’s not sports or music being “ruined”, it’s organized crime. This is the weirdest goddamned movie.