I’m not of the opinion that Jaume Collet-Serra‘s Run All Night (Warner Bros., 3.13) is second-rate crap — it is second-rate crap. Just as I knew that Collet-Serra’s Non-Stop was a second-rate airborne thriller, and that Scott Frank‘s A Walk Among The Tombstones was and is pretty close to gold-standard urban noir. Each of these films stars Liam “back to being a paycheck whore” Neeson, and you can bet that Neeson recognizes, along with most discriminating movie fans, that Frank’s film is far superior to the other two. I toughed it out during last night’s Grove screening until almost the very end, and then I said “fuck this” and got up and walked into a nearby book store. I had to. I was feeling icky and soiled and exhausted.
I hate the darting-and-swooping videogame CG shots that Collet-Sera uses to roam around New York City with, and I despise his atrocious disregard for action logic, particularly during an idiotic, flim-flammy, speeding-bumper-car scene in Brooklyn that totally alienated me. I also hate the faithless, Philistine way Collet-Saura directs fight scenes, particularly how he never actually shows anyone getting punched (he always cuts away a half-second before the moment of impact) and the way his guys always groan each and every time they get slugged. (Will you take a punch like a man just once?) There wasn’t anywhere near as much action in J.C. Chandor‘s A Most Violent Year, but when it happened you believed each and every frame of it. It was glorious for that.
Collet-Saura may be respected or at least enjoyed for delivering a more energized, guy-friendly approach to action flicks, but he isn’t fit to shine Chandor’s shoes in this realm. And don’t get me wrong about Chandor. He is absolutely not the kind of guy who would walk up to Collet-Saura and say, “Wow, I’m so much better than you! Get down on your knees and shine my shoes!” Chandor would actually go up to Collet-Saura and go, “Wow, man…you’re so amazing! Can I hang out and watch you shoot for a while so I can learn a couple of things?”
To borrow from a recently published Ethan Hawke line, A Walk Among The Tombstones is gourmet and Run All Night is barbecue. Or Fatburger. Either you understand the difference between marbled, high-grade steak at Del Frisco’s in midtown Manhattan and a nice juicy greaseburger on Santa Monica Blvd. or you don’t. Movies like Run All Night are essentially attempts to deliver the Grand Theft Auto experience in a theatre. I’ve had conversations about the difference with smart, knowledgable guys who sincerely prefer the Grand Theft Auto thing. You can’t grab these guys by the collar and slap them around. They were raised on video games and they like what they like.
In his 3.10 review Variety critic Justin Chang actually called Run All Night “robustly satisfying.” I was blown away when I read it. Everyone has a blind or weak spot when it comes to certain films. Lord knows I’ve done somersaults over films that I should have held back on or at least been more circumspect about. It happens.