Year Released: 2015
Directedy by: Jaume Collet-Serra
Starring: Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman
(R, 114 min.)
Genre: Mystery and Suspense
“The Meaning of life is that it stops.” Franz Kafka
It’s not predictable. It’s inevitable. And that’s a big difference. It’s what you get when pros like Liam Neeson and Ed Harris endow their characters with a tragic vision.
Liam Neeson almost reprises his original Taken role as a semi-retired tough guy who has alienated his family. But we have some very big differences here, too. In Taken Neeson’s Frank Miller is ex CIA. In Run All Night he is Jimmy Conlon, a former Irish mob hit man. Frank Miller from Taken nurses his regrets with a beer among friends; Jimmy is just short of a falling down drunk, drinking the hard stuff all alone in a dark barroom.
He is haunted by his bloody past and can’t sleep. Only someone as talented as Neeson can with his eyes alone evoke another sleepless character “stepped in blood,” capturing for a moment at least, MacBeth’s tragic essence. Unlike our Shakespearean king, though, Jimmy is neither respected nor feared. In fact, so low has Jimmy fallen, that he has to beg for the cash to fix his broken heater.
Danny McGuire (Boyd Holbrook), the spoiled son of Jimmy’s once best friend and former boss, doesn’t make it easy, either. The only way Jimmy can get the cash is to play Santa Clause, which he does with a subdued lecherous rage that gets him kicks out of the party and out into the cold.
He reminds us a little of Bruce Willis’s burned out cop in 2006’s 16 Blocks, someone who also existed on a 180 proof liquid diet.
Jimmy isn’t just estranged from his grown son, Michael (Joel Kinnaman); he is a person non grata, excised from the family picture album as well as his son’s house. That is until straight as an arrow Michael witnesses a murder and calls his dad for help. And yes, we do have to suspend our disbelief at the coincidence that the murderer is none other than Danny McGuire, the ne’er do well son of Jimmy’s childhood friend, Shawn. (Ed Harris).
Jimmy puts a bullet into Danny when he tries to kill Michael. He has saved his son, but sealed his fate, too. “You know how this has to end,” Shawn says when Jimmy tells him how it all went down. The fact that Shawn knows his son is basically no good and has brought his fate upon himself does not alter the rigid blood vendetta he must follow. As much as Shawn has tried to distance himself from its sordidness, earlier refusing to deal in the easy money of the heroin trade, he is still bound to that code. Like Macbeth and Jimmy, he too is “stepped in blood too far” to turn back.
The scenes between Jimmy and Shawn evoke those old films from the forties with Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart and George Raft, where two boyhood friends go their different ways, one becoming a cop and the other a mobster, with the eventual showdown between them.
Though Shawn and Jimmy are on the same crooked side here, the showdown is just as inevitable. Neeson and Harris do not have that much screen time together, but when they do, there is a visceral connection between them. A kind of unspoken bond tethered to a past they would both rather forget. A tender regret as Shawn slaps the cheek of the man he knows has been hollowed out at his orders. And a final ritualistic parting before the final siege.
And the chase scenes from that siege are great:
There's the Brawl in the Bathroom, the Bloodbath in the Bar, the Assassination in the Apartment and the Table Leg Light Sabre Duel in the Tower. Throw in some well-worn New York locations, a visceral car chase and you've got something above your standard Neeson thriller. Roger Moore
Not to mention a claustrophobic pursuit in narrow tenement hallways, hide and seek in an old train yard, a requisite squealing car chase, a breathless run through the subway, and the final menace in the foggy forest just behind the creepy cabin in the woods.
Throw in a bearded wreck we may not realize is Nick Nolte as Jimmy’s brother, Vincent D’Onofrio, one of the few cops not in Shawn’s pocket, and a ruthless Common playing Shawn’s new hit man hired to take out his predecessor, and we have a supporting cast that adds more class.
Neeson is not fighting against the bad guys here; he is one of them. Instead he is fighting for that small patch on honor to finally bury his ghosts, even if he himself becomes one of them.
We have plenty of Scotch or maybe it’s Bushmills Irish whiskey in our film, but not much food. Jimmy, at least, looks like he could do with a few hot cooked meals. I’m sure he would love our Lamb Shanks Braised in Guinness Stout.
To go with that, let’s cook up some Irish Mashed Potatoes or Champ as they say in the old country. I am sure that his son Michael, the ex-boxer who now mentors young pugilists, would love their Irish name.
Champ: Irish Mashed Potatoes
Original recipe makes 4 servings
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and halved
1 cup milk
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/4 cup butter
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper to taste
. Place potatoes into large pot, and fill with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
. Drain well. Return to very low heat and allow the potatoes to dry out for a few minutes. (It helps if you place a clean dish towel over the potatoes to absorb any remaining moisture.)
. Meanwhile, heat the milk and green onions gently in a saucepan, until warm.
. Mash the potatoes, salt and butter together until smooth. Stir in the milk and green onion until evenly mixed. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Serve piping hot in bowls. Set out some extra butter for individuals to add to their servings.