Liam Neeson has had a phenomenal career, and he just keeps going. In the last 40 years he has tackled almost every film genre. In the past decade, however, he has become a full-blown action star. With the release of his latest film, The Commuter, Neeson adds yet another action-packed movie to his resume.
The movie, which boasts an impressive cast and thrilling performances, has already received positive reviews. More impressive is that The Commuter proves the 65-year-old actor can still deliver in a genre once dominated by men more than half his age.
To celebrate the release of The Commuter, we are going to look back at the films that cemented Neeson as a bona fide action star with a “particular set of skills”. These films not only redefined his career, but also changed the landscape of an entire genre, proving that Liam Neeson is one of the top action stars working today.
When Taken was released in 2008, nobody expected it to become a cultural sensation. Sure, Neeson had excelled in physically demanding roles prior to this movie, but Taken took things to the next level. Not only was the movie excellent, it reinvigorated Neeson’s career and spawned a franchise of films and a television show.
On paper, theTaken story is pretty far-fetched. Neeson, however, tackled the role of a “one-man army” in a believable way, elevating the material. Neeson’s character, Bryan Mills, was unstoppable as he scoured the world for his kidnapped daughter and left an insane amount of bodies in his wake. The fight choreography was beautiful, but Neeson's performance rendered Mills's odd combination of finesse and brutality something truly special.
2. The Grey
Taken may have introduced him as an action star, but his role in The Grey proved Neeson could deliver even with unusual material. After surviving a plane crash in Alaska, John Ottway (Neeson) and a small group of survivors are set upon by a pack of hungry wolves. The Grey weaved a story of survival that toed the line of absurdity, but Neeson’s performance kept it from going over the edge.
As the chance for survival decreased, the action ramped up and Neeson went toe-to-paw with the pack of wolves. The final act of the movie is essentially Neeson vs. Wolves, which sounds crazy, but it’s absolutely incredible. The Grey made it clear that “Liam Neeson: Action Star” was here to stay, and proved that action and serious dramatic chops don't have to be mutually exclusive.
Having already faced off against sex traffickers and wolves, Neeson’s next step was to tackle the fast-paced thriller, Non-Stop. This time, Neeson is an alcoholic air marshal who is lured into an elaborate scheme by an unknown person who starts killing airplane passengers one at a time.
As the plot unfolds, Neeson’s character, Bill Marks, desperately tries to find out who’s behind the attacks. While the film could have been a “paint by numbers” thriller, it was anything but. Neeson was a perfect fit for the role and balanced intense physicality with a nuanced performance.
The 2011 film Unknown is not as well-known as some of Neeson’s other films, but it is one worth seeing. Dr. Martin Harris (Neeson, of course), wakes from a coma after a terrible car accident. Dr. Harris soon discovers that no one, including his wife, knows who he is and he sets out to discover the truth about his own identity.
As we've come to expect from great action/mysteries, Unknown is packed with several twists, and in Dr. Harris's search for answers, all hell breaks loose. It’s a very complex story, but Neeson served as a great audience surrogate who is able to kick a lot of ass along the way.
5. Run All Night
As its title implies, Run All Night is a ticking clock action thriller. It also tells a richly compelling story about redemption. The plot centers on ex-mob enforcer Jimmy Conlon (Neeson), whose estranged son, Mike, witnessed a mob killing and plans to tell the police. The mob boss learns of Mike’s intentions and issues a hit on him. Jimmy decides to help his son, and the two must flee the city.
Along the way, Jimmy deals with demons from his past while also trying to reconcile with his son. It's a gritty action film, but on a deeper level it’s about the relationship between a father and son. Yes, Neeson is a badass who stacks up one heck of a body count, but softer moments make Run All Night a unique action film.
Liam Neeson’s foray into action films has raised the bar for the genre and proved that he is still one of the best actors working today. Thankfully, it looks like his latest film, The Commuter, will continue his trend of starring in great action films.
Make sure you catch The Commuter when it hits theaters on January 12, 2018.