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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RoboCop (2014)

RoboCop (2014)Released: February 12, 2014. Directed by: José Padilha. Starring: Joel Kinnaman, Gary Oldman, Abbie Cornish. Runtime: 117 min.

In a time where remakes are a dime a dozen, MGM comes out with a remake of the 1987 cult-classic “RoboCop,” which isn’t nearly as good as the original, but who would expect it would be? I just can’t understand the notion why someone (José Padilha, in his Hollywood directorial debut) would want to remake a near-perfect film. At least this isn’t a poor film. Like the original, it follows police officer Alex Murphy (Joel Kinnaman); a loving husband and father, and a good cop – something that seems to be hard to find in the corrupted 2028 version of Detroit. When he has a lead on the main villain of the film – Antoine Vallon (Patrick Garrow) – his car gets blown up. OmniCorp, a leading force in robotic technology, sees Murphy’s condition as the perfect chance to make the so-called RoboCop – half-man, half-machine.

The most refreshing thing about this remake is to see the new versions of the ED-209, where the advancements in filming technology is able to create some great robots; while the movement of the ED-209 in the original in film is just laughably bad. This also takes some liberties in altering the original source. In the original, Murphy is actually brain-dead, if memory serves me correctly. In this one, Murphy is kept alive, only receiving bad burns from the explosion. This way, it helps the film become a question of who’s control in the robot suit; the robot or the man? That aspect of the film isn’t that compelling. It’s okay at first, but it’s not entertaining as it can be when Alex’s control instincts are altered to be quicker in combat; bringing about the theme of freewill. One other part some might not like about the film is when Alex isn’t all there, and he experiences a shift in personality. From this, themes of consciousness come about.When Murphy becomes unlikeable for a stretch, it’s reminiscent of that stretch in “Spider-Man 3” when Peter becomes distinctly unlikeable because he’s been overpowered by the venemous substance.

Since the wife and child are present characters in this film, one would think the filmmakers would want Murphy to communicate with them; but for a fair deal of the film, that enjoyable aspect is taken away from this feature. This stretch is poor because Murphy doesn’t feel like a layered character anymore, he is simply RoboCop. Viewers can tell they are trying to make RoboCop more human this time around; because of the fact that Murphy’s face is shown largely throughout the film, and his guard mask only comes down in combat as protection. For me, I believe that if Clara (Abbie Cornish), the wife, and David (John Paul Ruttan), the son, are present – they should be there to communicate with Alex, build each other as characters, as well as being used to show Murphy’s humanity. Alex’s family is his drive to keep going. Joel Kinnaman portrays him believably; but he’s often too depressed in parts, too robotic and vacant in other parts, and by the time he says a classic line, the delivery feels so forced that the film might be better without it. Abbie Cornish also portrays a character affected by the whole situation, and her performance is enjoyable.

Some other positive aspects of this film are the visual effects, the explosive action and the suit design; the black is nice. The film is pretty entertaining even if some plot components feel a bit empty (particularly when Murphy is too robotic). One thing I do miss is the gore of the original. A lot of the times there is a gunshot and a random henchy just goes down for the count. Lame. There is some gore, but it’s not that enjoyable – it takes place in a hospital room, where we see what is left of Alex – his lungs, throat and head. It’s oddly compelling, but in a sickening way. The story isn’t nearly as engaging as the original, either, because the originals’ villains are much stronger. Who can forget Kurtwood Smith as one of the meanest cats around town? Also, what happens to Murphy to be put into the suit is more underwhelming because the motive for the hit is to just get him off the main criminal’s tail; I think, like in the original, no motivation to kill Murphy (unless you count sheer meanness as a motivation) is a much more terrifying idea.

Michael Keaton, Jackie Earle Haley, Gary Oldman occupy supporting roles on the OmniCorp team. Keaton is Raymond Sellars, the mastermind behind OmniCorp; Gary Oldman is Norton, Murphy’s doctor; and Haley seems to be a weapons expert who makes sure everything is in tip-top-shape with the robots. Michael K. Williams portrays Murphy’s partner; I couldn’t help but wonder at some points what it would be like to see a black man in the RoboCop suit. Well, not just any black man, him in particular; because I find myself to be impressed by his acting capabilities, and I just can’t wait to see him in a leading role. Sam L. Jackson is another supporting character, portraying a TV personality who is present from time to time with developments on the Dreyfuss Act, which doesn’t let robots on American soil. At the story’s heart, this is really about how robots might be able to better an intensely corrupt Detroit, and, to a greater extent, the rest of the world if this test deems successful. It would decrease crime levels, but with robots occupying spots on the police force, one has to wonder how many jobs will be lost. How would the police officers make a living? Would there be a job waiting for them at OmniCorp? Just some food for thought, there, to finish off the review.

Score65/100

Safe House (2012)

Safe House

Release Date: February 10, 2012

Director: Daniel Espinosa

Stars: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga

Runtime: 115 min

Tagline: No one is safe.

Matt Weston (Ryan Reynolds) is a young CIA agent whose mission is to go to this safe house and look after a fugitive, Tobin Frost (Denzel Washington). Frost used to be a great CIA agent, until he turned rogue. It turns out others want Frost dead, too. After the safe house is attacked, Weston must protect Frost at all costs.

The action sequences are pretty great at the time, but they aren’t very memorable at all. There’s also quite a few boring scenes.  The plot also isn’t all that memorable either, and it can get a little complicated at times – when you’d think a film with such a seemingly simple plot wouldn’t involve any thinking power at all.

The performances are decent, Washington is the best in his role, though. This movie stars Ryan Reynolds, Denzel Washington, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Nora Arnezeder, Robert Patrick and Joel Kinnaman.

What you get is an action film I could live without, but I enjoyed quite a few aspects of it. Nothing I regret seeing but it just left a feeling of “that could have been so much better,” by the end of the running time. It isn’t a total waste of time as some of it’s interesting, see it if the opportunity comes along; as some of it has some good action and isn’t a complete fail of a film.

I was generally disappointed by this really decent action flick that could have been greater, considering it has seemingly such a simple plot and a great cast, but ended up being unfortunately between average and pretty good.

63/100