RUN ALL NIGHT “Dad, how long do we have to run for?” “Read the movie’s title, son. Read the title.”

THE INCREASINGLY LUDICROUS Taken series may pay the bills, but Liam Neeson's action renaissance phase has also generated a number of less flashy and more interesting B pictures. More specifically, 2011's Unknown and last year's Non-Stop, both directed by Jaume Collet-Serra, have stuck a intriguing balance between knowing when to subvert genre conventions and when to just put the pedal down and cruise. Run All Night, the third collaboration for the duo, takes a number of elements that should seem old hat by now—regretful hitmen, broadly New York mob guys, Ed Harris doing his whisper-shout-whisper thing—and successfully wrings them for something reasonably taut and occasionally unfashionably grim.

Introduced via flash-forward, Neeson plays a once-legendary triggerman turned stumbling pub fixture. When his estranged son (Joel Kinnaman) sees something he shouldn't, the two must do what the title says. A fairly amazing assortment of grizzled character actors obligingly pop up for the star to bludgeon his way through. Collet-Serra, who first proved his chops with the nutso cult horror film Orphan, keeps things hopping, utilizing some nifty Google Earth transitions between scenes and steadily hurtling his protagonists into a succession of ever-more-enclosed spaces, with results that generally reduce the surroundings to matchsticks.

Some premises were born for 90 minutes, and Run All Night undeniably begins to lose some of its old-school impact as it creeps toward two hours. (A subplot involving a high-tech assassin played by Common feels like studio-mandated padding, no matter how cool his guns are.) Even if it doesn't always deliver on its stripped-down promise, though, Run All Night deserves a healthy measure of respect for unearthing a rich, world-weary vein of noir fatalism. It'd punch you if it could.