Film Review: Run All Night

by Carlin Doyle

Rated MA15+. Starring Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnaman, Common. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra.

Think Taken, but no one was taken.

That’s how I would describe Run All Night. It’s a Liam Neeson movie with a heck of a lot of shooting, killing, action and violence. That is the film in a nutshell, but there is a little bit more to it than just that.

The tag line of the Run All Night is “No sin goes unpunished”. That’s a bold statement, and from the start of the film we are discovering what this means. Jimmy Conlon (Neeson) lies shot in the woods, half conscious, and reflecting on his life and the mistakes he has made. He was an assassin; and best friends since childhood with mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris). He also failed as a father, almost entirely absent from his son’s life due to the choices he had made. He states the same thing in conclusion, “No sin goes unpunished”.

The film jumps back sixteen hours to Jimmy drunk in a bar. He is an alcoholic full of regret; an assassin who had managed to escape death and imprisonment, yet haunted by the deaths he had caused and full of guilt over his past. When Detective Harding says he should be paying for what he did, he replies, “Just because I’m not behind bars doesn’t mean I’m not paying for what I did”.

After an introduction to the main players, the plot gets rolling – Shawn’s son Danny (Boyd Holbrook) is heavily involved in illicit drugs and debt, and solves his problem by murdering his debtors in cold blood. Jimmy’s son Mike (Joel Kinnaman), a limousine driver, is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, and since he becomes a witness, Danny attempts to kill him as well.

Jimmy meets up with Michael and saves his life by killing Danny. Jimmy informs Shawn of what he has done, and Shawn ends their friendship; he wants revenge. He has placed a price on his head, as well as Michael’s. Jimmy and Michael are paired up in an effort to escape the corrupt police, Shawn and his hitmen, assassin Price (Common), and anybody else trying to kill them – all in one night. Hence, they need to run all night (corny clichés finished).

This is a dark and gritty movie – literally and metaphorically. It is full of sin – drugs, violence, corruption, revenge, greed, and death. And at the same time, Jimmy is seeking reconciliation to his son, and redemption for his crimes.

So does he find redemption? Or does indeed no sin go unpunished?

Run All Night at least in part recognises that the corruption within humanity leads to evil, and this evil ultimately leads to punishment. But it doesn’t get to the pulse. It doesn’t offer any cure, and it can’t, because it doesn’t give the right diagnosis.

The Bible gives a sweeping condemnation of humanity’s nature in Romans chapter 3. The author, the Apostle Paul, recognises the corruption within the human heart. Quoting the Old Testament, he lists (Rom 3:10-18):

“No one is righteous, no, not one; No one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside… no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive, the venom of asps is under their lips… Their feet are swift to shed blood. In their paths are ruin and misery. The way of peace they have not known, there is no fear of God before their eyes.”

The violence begins when Jimmy murders Danny. Yet, even earlier, Danny murders the extortionists. And before that, he was on the path to death due to his extremely self-destructive lifestyle. Yet back at the very beginning, these problems began with the evil that is in the human heart. Apart from God, we are lost, and dead.

No sin goes unpunished. What is needed, then, is atonement – a covering for the evils committed, and a new nature without corruption. Following this condemnation of humanity, Paul offers hope – God sent his son Jesus Christ as a sacrifice, an atoning sacrifice for our sin. Through Jesus’ death, he takes the punishment we deserved for the evil in our hearts and lives, and covers it with grace and forgiveness (Romans 3:23-6).

Indeed, no sin goes unpunished. Either it is put on Jesus, or put on us. I don’t believe Jimmy ultimately finds real atonement. He simply digs his grave deeper by trying to cover over his sins by killing the right people.

Run All Night is a well-directed film – well paced, with good development, and the slow work of reconciliation between the father and son was well done. It wasn’t as over the top as Taken. Still, Liam Neeson manages to kill about half the characters in the film. I give this three stars.

Run All Night will release in Australian cinemas this Thursday, 19th March. It is currently screening in cinemas across the US and UK.

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