Ugh. Well, on normal Sunday nights we usually go right to the latest episode of The Simpsons at about 8:08... that's right, I'm riding this crazy train to the end, just like Jon Voight in Runaway Train. But this last Sunday night was spent watching the latest Liam Neeson variation on Taken called Run All Night. Stylistically, it's similar to the grungy Running Scared (2006), but lacking the complexity of that one, and similar to Harsh Times, where CGI is used to swoop around the city, and through chain link fences. Ooh! Or maybe the camera's just that small, and the cameraman's just that good! Peter MacDonald could pull it off. Also, we've come a long way from the original effects of The Matrix. They use that, too, to swoop lightly around frozen action. And lettering that sticks to the background as the camera shakes. Oh, they've thought of everything. Give Adobe a challenge, guys! Is that all you got?
This is the third collaboration between Liam Neeson and director... gotta look up his name... Jaume Collet-Serra. Too proud to work with Luc Besson, but he had his career lightly shepherded by Joel Silver and Bob Zemeckis, so he's got some chops. That's clear.
Now the older I get, the more this stuff gets compressed in my brain: the post-Sixth Sense tricky-ass plots and all. We saw Unknown many a moon ago and, like the Liam Neeson character in that one, I don't remember a damn thing about the plot, except that it was complex, that things aren't always as they seem... the original Ah-nold Total Recall taught me that... and, as with Salt, there's a sleight of gun moment in the movie where we don't know what happened. Did the character get shot? Didn't they?
Now, screenwriters take note. After they start at the end of the film, like Charley Varrick and A Perfect World, it's time to set up Liam Neeson's character. And apparently, this character's a loser. I can't personally vouch for the Taken trilogy, but here, in Run All Night, his character's seen as a loser. But even some losers have a winning past. Call him A Loser Apart, if you will.
Time for more character development. We meet Ed Harris, the head of the local crime syndicate. In the initial business dealing, brokered by Ed's son, we learn that the son's a bit of a loser in his own right. One of my opinionated watchers had to ask right away if they're ripping off the first Godfather movie already. So cynical, so impatient. As it turns out, they're taking from many sources. For example, Liam Neeson has to borrow money from Ed Harris' son, apparently for desperately needed home repairs. So we have an homage to The Godfather, and with this new business dealing, Road to Perdition as well.
More clichés abound, but perhaps my favorite is the upset guy in the subway who wants his $2.50 back... I'm sorry, I mean Upset Guy in Subway. Oh, this kid's going places. He's part of a long, proud tradition... I just can't think of the rest right now. Well, there's the Idiot Passenger in the opening scene of The Transporter television series who gets driven around a vacant lot... that'll teach him to confuse the Transporter's car with the Taxi! There's also the homeless guy who bugs Michael Douglas in Falling Down, who ends up getting D-Fens' empty briefcase. These clichéd yet crucial characters help drag the plot along, and allow the Alpha Males to practice their skills on the bad guy at the end of the movie.
Now, to help drive home the point that Liam Neeson's character's a loser, there's the matter of the son hating the father. This is driven home early on, so you can probably guess how that will evolve over the course of the movie. But here's a part where the filmmakers try and stray from the Cliché Farm to the Cliché Lab. There's a conversation between honest cop Vincent D'Onofrio and Killer who got Away With It Liam Neeson. "I get a postcard every year from widows seeking closure," D'Onofrio tells Neeson. "Do you know what that feels like?" Now, these days, I can't help but think to myself... if Neeson's character was black, we wouldn't even be having such pleasantries as this conversation, first of all. And second... the conversation just doesn't seem plausible to me. Different, granted. Not what you normally hear, but not plausible. And of course, this character's part in the story isn't over.
Same thing with the one big car chase. Spoiler alert: a cop car gets chased by a civilian car! So in some ways, Run All Night is not the usual fare, but in most ways, it is.... oh, I just remembered. There's the whole matter of Common's character. He kinda reminds me of Chris Mulkey, if only in 1987's The Hidden. If he had a better role than that, I don't want to know about it. Common is like the Jude Law character in Road to Perdition, spoiler alert, but without the old-timey camera. Incidentally, what was the deal with Jude Law's wounds at the end of Perdition? It's the kind of thing that might happen to a table when a glass pane got dropped onto it, but not a human face. Just sayin'.
-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan