Once again Neeson is a father who will do almost anything to protect his family, including using his very special set of skills, but the situation is very different from the ones that saw him traverse the globe as kick-ass dad Bryan Mills.
In “Run All Night” he plays Jimmy Conlon, a hitman for the Irish mob. His boss is his childhood friend—his only friend, in fact—kingpin Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). They have a bond forged by decades of having one another’s backs. The pair are like brothers, until a disagreement between their sons (Boyd Holbrook and Joel Kinnaman) spirals out of control the two best friends become mortal enemies.
Action man du jour Neeson goes mano a mano with Ed Harris and faster than you can say, “Tell everyone to get ready, Jimmy’s coming,” he goes then mano a mano a mano a mano a mano a mano against everyone else in an exhibition of extreme, grunting manliness. Jimmy is a man who has done some very bad things, and continues to, using a very particular set of skills to nullify anyone who gets between him and the safety of his son.
Unlike the “Taken” series, which is content with straight-ahead action, “Run All Night” attempts to deepen the story by examining Jimmy’s conscious, delving into themes of atonement and guilt, topped off with a “I wanted to save you from having the same kind of life I had” subplot. Neeson really wants us to know that Jimmy is a killer but not a bad dad and the emphasis on adding psychological layers to the character drags the movie down in the last forty minutes.
It’s great fun to see Harris and Neeson ooze testosterone and the movie does have some very stylish action scenes plus a relentless hitman (Common) but its efforts to examine Neeson’s Irish guilt aren’t nearly as interesting or well done as the action story.