Four out of five stars
Jimmy (Liam Neeson) and Shawn (Ed Harris) grew up together in New York City, idolizing the local gangsters. Jimmy became a hit man while Shawn became the boss. These two are so tight, that when Jimmy is forced to kill Shawn’s son, Danny (Boyd Holbrook), because Danny tries to kill Jimmy’s son, Michael (Joel Kinnaman), Jimmy takes Danny’s mobile phone off his dead body and calls Shawn with it to tell him the news.
See, Danny’s a hothead who made an unauthorized drug deal with some Armenians. Instead of paying them in cash, he paid them with bullets. Then, in the kind of convenient coincidence you find only in movies, Michael witnesses Danny shooting one the Armenians (maybe it was two -- it was dark) because Michael is the Armenians’ limo driver.
By the way, Michael also hates his dad Jimmy, and hasn’t seen or spoken to him in years. So even though Michael knows his life is in danger, when Jimmy shows up at his house to protect him, Michael kicks him out. Good thing Jimmy decided to have a smoke in front of the house, because Danny’s father Shawn shows up and has a sit-down with Jimmy, who asks him to have mercy on his boy, even offering his own in exchange for Michael’s.
If you’ve seen the "Run All Night" trailer, you know how that goes over with Shawn.
“I’m coming after your boy with everything I’ve got,” Shawn tells Jimmy with eerie calm.
That scene, anchored by the brilliant Ed Harris, instantly elevates the entire film and serves as an entry point into a chain of unlikely events that couldn’t possibly happen in real life. But here we’re going to buy it, because Harris’ presence balances out Neeson’s recent, relentless pursuit to apparently play the exact same character for the rest of his life, though this one has just a little more depth than usual.
Jimmy exits the restaurant with Shawn’s goons in hot pursuit and spends the rest of the movie trying to protect Michael and his family.
Director Jaume Collet-Serra, Neeson’s collaborator for "Non-Stop" and "Unknown," keeps every scene feeling dirty and dangerous. Each chase scene, whether in a car or on foot, is intense. Even the finale is terrific, and rapper Common makes for an excellent and unrecognizable hi-tech hit man in pursuit of Jimmy and son.
The script also makes no apologies for Jimmy’s past behavior, which involves killing at least 17 men for Shawn. While Jimmy might be feeling a bit guilty, it’s not necessarily because he destroyed the lives of strangers, but because of the damage he did to his relationship with Michael in the process.
"Run All Night" starts out as a seemingly predictable, formulaic affair, but in the end it’s a heart-pounding thriller.