Run All Night (2015)

Released March 13, 2015. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Starring Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman. Written by Brad Ingelsby. 1hr., 54 min.

Vengeance and a father’s love pair up on a long December night

Featuring a visually pleasing style and packing a surprisingly emotional punch, Run All Night will please anyone looking for a concise narrative that happens over one long night.

Fate pits best friends Jimmy Conlon, portrayed by Liam Neeson, and Shawn Maguire, Ed Harris, against each other in a deadly situation when Jimmy is forced to kill Shawn’s son to protect his own kin. Maguire’s son Danny, the up-and-coming supporting star Boyd Holbrook (A Walk Among the Tombstones), kills a pair of Albanians in a local gang after he tries to bring drugs to the family business. The entire situation is a product of Danny’s insolence and need for independence – to handle a problem on his own, like his father suggested. Surely, this is not what he meant.

His father is a legitimate business man, also known as a New York mafia boss, who won’t bring drugs back to his city after he had a bad experience amongst his workers once before. Michael, portrayed by RoboCop’s Joel Kinnaman, comes into this when he drove the to-be-murdered Albanians to Danny’s home. He is a limousine driver and family man, with a seriously estranged relationship with his own father – a former hitman for Shawn Maguire.

Now Jimmy is retired, but his nightmares of those he has killed have not rested. He’s drunk and tattered, playing the flawed hero he seems to play at least once a year nowadays, notably in 2014’s Non-Stop and A Walk Among the Tombstones.

Common as Andrew Price. (Source)

Common as Andrew Price. (Source)

Hey, if it works, it works. It feels even more familiar here, however, since this has such a similar style to Non-Stop, which director Jaume Collet-Serra also helmed. It has a different framing – New York circa Christmas time, but it’s about as much of a Christmas flick as Die Hard. There’s also a prominent NHL game in play throughout – the New York Rangers versus the New Jersey Devils, perhaps to display the city’s culture. It later works cleverly into the screenplay, which is written by Brad Ingelsby, writer of 2013’s Out of the Furnace. Similar settings, scenes and tone make this more familiar.

Run All Night isn’t memorable because of its originality, but because of its emotionally interesting narrative. Jimmy will largely do anything to protect Michael and that shows a father’s love for his son, even if they don’t know each other well. However, Michael’s bitterness towards his father becomes so sporadically extreme, that the character is sometimes too unlikable.

Liam Neeson as Jimmy Conlon. (Source)

Liam Neeson as Jimmy Conlon. (Source)

During the quicker action scenes, the editing becomes hectic. That’s one of the weaker technical aspects of the film; but the redeeming cinematography is smooth.  The action scenes work because they are fun and have personality. But there are scenes that don’t work – like uninspired bouts of ruthlessness just so it can show that these characters can be brutal. Or a bathroom brawl for lack of realism, since they make a lot of noise – and how does no one hear the commotion in the commode in a crowded subway station?

A fun antagonist includes a hitman portrayed the Oscar-winning Common. He’s called to be robotic and calculated as Andrew Price, but ends up being the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of assassins, particularly when he’s called to put on his nice guy act, and then he becomes monstrous. Vincent D’Onofrio portrays Detective Harding, an antagonizing, prejudiced officer who has been gunning for Jimmy “Gravedigger” Conlon for years. His assumptions of Jimmy and his son are sometimes downright mean.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra does bring his best action film yet to the table. He expertly deals with themes of regrets in life through Conlon, largely signified through a repeated line with former bestie Maguire, “Wherever we’re going, when we cross that line, we’re going together.” It’s fascinating that a family member’s death because of intense circumstances can cause him to be so vengeful, but the way that writer Ingelsby doesn’t delve into it well enough causes him to be more basic than he could have been. Collet-Serra handles the emotions well and builds great tension throughout.

3 stars

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Non-Stop (2014)

Non-StopReleased: February 28, 2014. Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra. Starring: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy. Runtime: 106 min.

As a film filled with enough red herrings to keep you guessing the whole way through, “Non-Stop” works as an effective mystery. It proposes the idea of what would happen if a trusted figure of authority turned into a supposed criminal; how would you feel about the state of national security? Not very good. It answers this in an action vehicle for Liam Neeson, who has taken to action films a bit later in his career than usual action stars. It just shows that he’s a versatile actor; and at least his characters have a good amount of humanity.

Bill Marks (Neeson) is a struggling alcoholic on an ordinary flight as a U.S. Air Marshall. Partly through the flight, he receives a mysterious text from somone on the same plane – on a secure network. The text says that the texter will kill someone every twenty minutes unless the killer is paid $150 million dollars in an off-shore account. How do you get away with murder on a crowded plane, you might ask? Well, this film shows pretty innovative ways. Marks must spring into action to save the people he pledged to protect, and simultaneously clear his name.

Neeson’s character might not be as impressive as his one featured in 2012’s “The Grey,” as far as the most human characters he’s portrayed in action flicks, but Marks is a decent character. Before I get into the character, it’s getting harder to differentiate some of Neeson’s characters… especially when some have the same initials. This film he’s Bill Marks, and in “Taken” he’s Bryan Mills. I’m bound to mix those up sooner than later. Anyway, Marks is motivated to protect the people of the plane because it’s his job, and he’s motivated to catch the suspect to clear his name. (Don’t have a cow, I don’t consider a major spoiler since it’s exposed in the film’s trailer.)  A short list of suspects become apparent when they look for any plane patrons using their cell phones on the plane’s monitors.

I won’t say who the suspects are narrowed down to, because that’ll just be boring; but they’re mostly just generic stereotypes representing a lot of cultural make-up, but you know the filmmakers aren’t going to make the Middle Eastern the perpetrator in a terrorism film. Because that might just cause an uproar. (Is that racist to assume that?) This is a terrorism film that is able to bend in suspsense in such a taut environment, something directors like Wes Craven are capable of, shown in 2005’s half-political thriller “Red Eye”.

The film’s actually pretty fresh, too. It’s not “Snakes on a Plane” fun, because Neeson repeatedly telling people to sit down and shut the front door becomes irrating after awhile. Something else that doesn’t help is that the action takes about 25 minutes to get into; and while there’s decent suspense welded in, the action isn’t non-stop. It comes and goes, but what a deceiving title. The only thing that doesn’t stop is the plane. Part of the problem with the action is the taut setting, it’s not a lot of room for the stars to beat the crap out of each other or anything like that; or shoot off a gun, since they’re in a plane. The cinematography is decent, there’s a sequence in the beginning where the world is seen through a “drunken vision” that isn’t that great. Everyone’s focused but the background is blurry. Wouldn’t alcoholics develop a tolerance to alcohol after awhile and it’d become harder and harder to get hammered?

The supporting cast is filled by Julianne Moore, who brings a good performance to the film; and damn, she is looking great for someone who’s fifty-three years old. Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave”) is in the background in her second movie role, as a stewardess. Scoot McNairy’s featured, too, and I think he’s just a great supporting presence.

A star of the film is the great sound editing, and awesome sound effects; especially when turbulence is present. The flick’s weak spot might just be the lackluster reveal of the perpetrator’s motivations. Just didn’t do it for me. And for a mystery, there are a few too many “Why did that happen…?” and “How does that make sense…?” situations throughout. This also has probably the most awkward exchange of dialogue as the final lines so far this year. All in all, it’s a decent watch and it keeps you guessing throughout. That’s the intention of a mystery – and this is a capable one.

Score70/100

Orphan – A film review by Daniel Prinn – An effective and chilling psychological thriller

Orphan

Release Date: July 24, 2009

Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Stars: Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman

Runtime: 123 min

Tagline: There’s something wrong with Esther.

 

This is definitely the best film I’ve seen from director Jaume Collet-Serra (the other two being Unknown and the House of Wax remake).

When a married couple with multiple problems lose a child in the womb, they set out for something to fill the missing part of their relationship at a local orphanage. They find Esther, and she seems like a really sweet little Russian girl. They bring her home and, eventually, bizarre and vicious occurances start happening, where Esther seems to always be there. Kate is the only one who seems to see Esther for sinister colours, and must expose her before it’s too late.

This movie is a rather orignal horror/thriller that has great twists and turns, and is a real treat for horror and mystery lovers, as it brings something fresh to the genre. It has wicked suspense and is very creepy, and I liked it a lot. It’s rarely ever boring, and can really keep your attention throughout (for a lot of it), and some scenes you can see some things coming (but rarely). It has some pretty great pacing, though. It really is carried along well enough by some solid performances.

It can be really original, but some of its themes and even scenes were very reminiscent of The Good Son.

*SPOILER, the following explains some scenes in the film*

In this one there’s a scene in the woods where a bird gets shot and in The Good Son; there was a scene in the woods where a dog got shot. There was a person who is believed to be the Person Who Cried Wolf in both: Kate in this one, and no one would believe her because of her expected alcoholism, and in The Good Son; where no one will believe Mark because of the loss of his mother, and everyone thinks it’s a cry for attention.  And the similar psychopathic issues: disturbed, psychopathic, manipulative, cunning and charming.

 *END OF SPOILERS*

 Though, even though how similar they seem to be, this film has more twists and turns and

can be more complex, while Good Son had a simpler plot compared to this. It was better in many ways, and more entertaining. Esther (Orphan) was much creepier than Henry (T.G.S.).

 I don’t see why though that this family would need another daughter, I guess to fill the hole, but they already have enough problems on their hands, why add in a psychopathic child? Though, I love the film’s ability to show the fear that the characters are feeling and other emotions, as well as some of the character’s general ignorance.

This film stars Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman as the show-stealing eerie and troubled Esther, CCH Pounder, Jimmy Bennett, Margo Martindale and Aryana Engineer.

If you expect a film that’s thoroughly scary, you may not get it because there’s only a few big scares, but it is an effective and chilling psychological thriller.

Orphan is just all thoroughly entertaining and it would be high up there on my list of favourite psychological horror/thrillers. Fans of horror films, creepy stories, mind games of a film,  and good film twists, should really give this one a watch.

80/100