Run All Night ★★★★


Serra and Dirk Westervelt achieve a kind of Iambic rhythm here, with the direction of one camera movement anticipating the direction the next shot would have to take. Example: during the car chase, the car will shake left to simulate Neeson crashing into a parked car. The shot of his car ramming the parked car will also start from the right and head left. It's the first time I've ever noticed directional continuity. That shit takes planning. I've only achieved it once and I basically abandoned spatial coherence for the sake of the camera movement. Also it was for a minutes long montage set to music. There were maybe 10 set-ups and my camera was small enough that I could move it myself. That still took up almost an hour. Now imagine the 450 shots that Serra throws into every sequence having to adhere to an editorial scheme. It's less mind-boggling to imagine it was an accident but considering how carefully selected every angle is, especially around those city-hopping melds he's so fond of, I'm perfectly happy believing he did it on purpose.

The fact that this film feels almost nothing like his previous work says to me that he knew he'd been handed a script that would actually translate to proper, memorable cinema, instead of a compelling afternoon frittered away. I think ever since abandoning his grindhouse roots post-Orphan, he's been looking for a way to mould his claustrophobic intensity he used to bring to projects into a more audience-friendly design. Well, he's done it. The film deserves his talent, and he's wasn't about to whiff just when things got interesting. So he dropped his shtick and picked up a rhythm to keep him on his toes. He cuts every few seconds, and keeps multiple perspectives running simultaneously, so that a chase and a bathroom brawl can happen overtop of each other without breaking the rhythm of either. The sound design works overtime to keep the pace alive during the many cuts, but also to make sure the wild sound isn't buried under the gunshots and Junkie XL music.

And finally there's Neeson himself. In a movie with Ed Harris, Joel Kinneman, Boyd Holbrook, Genesis Rodriguez, Holt McCallany, Nick Nolte and Bruce Fucking McGill, Neeson never once feels an undeserving or outmatched center. In Walk Among The Tombstones (a great fucking movie) he choked a little on the Block dialogue, unable to play a New Yorker and spit out stylized bons mot. In all of the Taken films he doesn't have a line memorable enough to even pretend to try to sell. He's not fully Irish here, but this is the first time since The Grey that he's playing a character he can actually fully commit to. Jimmy Conlon is a guy with regrets he owns up to having earned; he never pretends he's anything but a piece of shit. The single-mindedness of Run All Night is the smartest choice writer Brad Ingleby makes, after allowing his relationship with Shawn McGuire to flower. Harris and Neeson communicate a life-long friendship with ease And Serra never rushes anything (a scene where a guy, supposedly dead, gathers his strength to do one last thing, feels believably timed, which...I mean that never happens). Shocking when you consider how goddamned fast everything moves. I remember thinking just as Harris asks McGill to hire Common the hitman (who mercifully doesn't have the chance to overplay his psychopathy) that the movie must still have at least 45 minutes left to go. By that point I felt like I'd already seen a full two hour movie and was relieved to know I'd get to see even more of this movie happen.

To everyone who'd have you believe this is one more piece for the late-career Neeson trash fire: your loss. This movie is excellent.

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