Whether its a full price weekend treat, or a Bargain Tuesday trip, nobody wants to waste their hard earned cash on a rubbish film. For that very reason, I decided a “What Should I Watch?” post would be in the public benefit. For my first comparison I have chosen two very similar films, both out now on widespread release. The first is Run All Night with Liam Neeson, and the second is The Gunman with Sean Penn.
Both films are essentially manhunts, where the protagonist is an ‘innocent party’ who has done some bad things in the past. In both, those they care about are put in danger thanks to their previous misdeeds, and in both the protagonist wears a bandage on his hand.
Yet, I won’t go any further here. I’ve split the films into four bite-sized categories with which to analyse them: story, characters, action and those little extras. Hopefully these will show why I’ve analysed the films together.
So, lets get straight into it: Run All Night v. The Gunman.
Both films walk heavily trodden paths. Run All Night features all the usual troupes in urban crime flicks – crooked cops, dodgy dealings and barrel-loads of bullets. On the other hand, The Gunman is a globe-trotting manhunt that fails to deviate from anything we’ve seen before.
The difference in the stories however, is that you are made to care how one turns out, whilst being left indifferent to how the other concludes. Run All Night makes you care through its touching and emotional father-son relationship. The film follows the usual detached relationship to strained relationship to mended relationship arch, but swerves enough along this road to keep you involved and engaged. I have no qualms stating that I even had a little cry towards the film’s end.
This is an experience I did not share during The Gunman. The film tries to ignite an emotional separated lovers motif. This never really takes, due to the complete lack of chemistry between Penn and Trinca, and therefore the film lacks any real emotional connection with the audience. Whereas I would say Run All Night had a little too much emotional soul-searching, The Gunman didn’t have enough, instead having Penn look angsty reading lots of notes and putting guns together.
Furthermore, the dialogue was very average in both. Nothing stood out as particularly impressive, as the two quotes I picked up on show the unoriginality of both pictures:
Run All Night: “If you ever want to see your family again, leave: leave now.”
The Gunman: “We did some bad things… I did some bad things.”
Hardly groundbreaking stuff.
One would think that with Sean Penn, Jasmine Trinca, Javier Bardem, Ray Winstone and Idris Elba packed into one picture, some interesting characters would be on show; that assumption would be wrong. Penn spends most of his time frowning or flexing his new figure, whilst lacking the action might of a Neeson or a Renner. His character is no help, with Penn placed in a cookie-cutter good-guy-who-has-made-a-mistake-but-has-nothing-interesting-to-say role.
Trinca’s character is described as “remarkable” in the film, but shows nothing other than vulnerability and sexuality throughout, whilst Winstone sports an unappealing blonde mane in a gruff, nothing performance. The biggest disappointment is that Elba is giving so little screen time, as after a pretty decent monologue, he disappears, only to be seen fleetingly in the background thereafter.
The one shining light however, is Javier Bardem, who does his best to carry the scenes he is in. He certainly carries his early interactions with Penn, and is a somewhat three-dimensional character. It is a shame nobody keeps up with him.
Similarly, Run All Night features some big name actors. Again, this is another male-centred film, featuring Liam Neeson, Joel Kinnman, Ed Harris and Common in the key roles.
Neeson is the same tired character that we have seen tens of times before. His character may be tired, but Neeson still has the presence to entertain. His on-screen son, Kinnaman, is a gust of fresh air alongside him, giving a very impressive performance. Many more action roles could be on the horizon for the Robocop and The Killing star.
Ed Harris is fine, playing Neeson’s friend-turned-adversary, whilst Common gives his all to a very unspectacular role. Neither light up the screen, but neither stink it up either.
Frankly, neither was shot wholly to my tastes. Whilst Run All Night insisted on using some very odd diving camera work, The Gunman‘s early action had an uncomfortable jitteriness.
This wasn’t helped by the distinctly average nature of the action sequences themselves. The Gunman featured some decent scenes, being the best during fistfights, but largely the action remains below-par, veering occasionally into the completely absurd. Run All Night was only marginally better. It had more potential than its action lived up to, but did feature some rather exilhirating set-pieces, such as the chair-leg Revenge of the Sith moment.
Those Little Extras
In terms of those little details that make or break a film, The Gunman had already annoyed me plenty enough that any little details were superfluous. Still, The Gunman begins with white Europeans fixing African problems during a civil war, and this seemed a little disrespectful.
Yet, Run All Night had a couple of features I was a little disappointed with. Firstly, it featured a common problem when it depicted two youths playing multiplayer Titanfall; when the screen was shown, only stock single-player footage was on screen. A rookie mistake. What was more perplexing was the decision to set the film at Christmas. It was a very odd decision for a March release, and wasn’t capitalised on.
A clear winner here. Run All Night is a decent action flick, and outshoots The Gunman at every turn. Whereas I would see Run All Night again, the only way I’d rewatch The Gunman is if someone had a gun to my head. Sean Penn has unfortunately shot himself in the foot with this disastrous mess.