Is Liam Neeson Stuck Killing People Forever?

Written By kom nampuldu on Jumat, 13 Maret 2015 | 20.49

Earlier this week, 62-year-old actor Liam Neeson announced that he will be retiring from action movies in two years, but can he really go back to being a serious leading man? The Run All Night star used to be considered a performer who exuded quiet, classy masculinity. He could play a leader, a martyr, a revolutionary, or a lover. Then, in 2008, he made the movie Taken and since then he's been punching and shooting everything on screen that stands in his way.

The towering Irishman had played an action hero before Taken. He had worn chain mail as Sir Gawain in Excalibur, dueled a nefariously foppish Tim Roth in Rob Roy, and brandished a lightsaber in Star Wars: Episode I. He had even played a super villain in Batman Begins. Taken was different. In all his other roles, Neeson had displayed either an aura of noblesse or moral honor. After all, this was the man who had once played Oskar Schindler. He brought life to Irish revolutionary Michael Collins. He managed to fall in love with Jodie Foster while she played a murmuring woodland idiot in Nell. Liam Neeson was a class act and Taken was a balls-to-the-wall revenge fantasy.

When Neeson took on Taken, he probably wasn't anticipating that the little thriller would be as big a deal as it was. As it happens, it reinvented him in his fifties as a rugged action star. Since taking out scores of Albanians in the Taken films, Neeson has punched a bunch of wild wolves, walked among tombstones, released a kraken, led the A-Team, commanded a battleship, and "run all night." We've enthusiasticly cheered him on through all of this. After all, it's cool to see a guy survive a plane crash, tape shards of tiny liquor bottles to his hands, and then punch a wolf. But can we think of Liam Neeson now without thinking about that unrealistically tough guy who can kill anything? Could we buy him in a film like Schnindler's List today?

Neeson has a larger problem, though. Are we finally tired of all his action movies? Part of the fun of Taken was the revelation that Neeson could be such a badass. Now, though, all his films seem to bleed together and look the same. It's not as exciting watching him take down a room full of goons because we've seen it. It's like, okay, Liam Neeson. We get it. You can kill people.

Ironically, there is a deeply dramatic subtext to Neeson's decision to do all these action flicks. In an interview with 60 Minutes last year, the actor admitted that he took on all this work to distract himself from the grief he felt in the wake of his wife Natasha Richardson's death. Of course, Taken came out before Richardson's passing in 2009, but it set the stage for Neeson to command vast sums of money to punch things. And what better way to ignore grief than to punch things?

Even if Neeson is finally in a place to slow down and play more introspective characters once more, he runs the risk of confusing his audience. His brand is now indelibly linked to gritty action thrillers. In fact, I've often quipped to friends that there's probably a tween somewhere who watched Schindler's List assuming that it was going to be a movie where Neeson punches Nazis. The next time we see Neeson in a role it will be hard not to think about him talking about his "specific set of skills." Our brains will recreate that famous image from The Grey and we'll hear him cry, "Release the kraken!" every time he opens his mouth. Liam Neeson is so good at being an action star that I'm worried he may never again be able to be anything else. [Where to Stream Taken]

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[Photos: Everett Collection]


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