The Weekend Rent: A Brief History of Liam Neeson in Action

The Weekend Rent: A Brief History of Liam Neeson in Action

Jan 27, 2012

Liam Neeson might be 59 years old, but the Irish actor is still a favorite action hero on-screen. This week in theaters he plays one in a group of survivors of a plane crash in The Grey. Not only does Neeson end up in a remote part of frozen Alaska, the survivors are surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves and it is up to Neeson to outwit the hungry canines or end up as lunch.

Although Neeson is an Oscar-nominated actor for his work in Schindler's List, he has had a long career moving effortlessly between sophisticated roles and fun action. Back in the early '80s, Neeson kicked off his career by getting medieval in Excalibur and Merlin and the Sword. In 1983's Krull, a young Neeson played a fugitive warrior in the cult fantasy flick.

Neeson spent the rest of the '80s earning credibility in dramas until 1990's Darkman, in which he played the titular scientist who is left horribly disfigured by a mobster. Later in the decade, Neeson got tangled up in the horror of The Haunting as a psychiatrist who conducts an insomnia study at a secluded manor with a creaky past. He closed out the decade as Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace, but the actor was spared any further adventures with Gungan irritant Jar Jar Binks due to losing a deadly lightsaber duel with Darth Maul.

Qui-Gon might have got up and gone from the Star Wars prequels, but Neeson's action-film career continued to heat up. In Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York, Neeson played "Priest" Vallon—the head of the Dead Rabbits Irish gang. Under the alias of Henri Ducard, Neeson trained Christian Bale's Bruce Wayne in martial arts and served as his mentor in Batman Begins until the Caped Crusader discovers Ducard's draconian plot to correct the world's wrongs.

Neeson was Darkman, he starred in a Batman movie and played a Jedi knight in a Star Wars movie, but he wasn't done kicking ass in blockbuster films. In Taken, Neeson plays a former CIA operative who sets off to Paris to rescue his daughter after she is kidnapped by the Albanian Mafia and sold as a sex slave. Next he played Greek god Zeus in Clash of the Titans and offered son Perseus (Sam Worthington) a place by his side on Mount Olympus after his boy kicked the crap out of the Kraken. Next he played John "Hannibal" Smith—the head of an elite Special Forces unit in the big-screen adaptation of The A-Team. In The Next Three Days, Neeson plays a former convict that has escaped from prison seven times and advises Russell Crowe how to break his wife out of jail. Most recently, Neeson played an assassin who believes his cover is his real life after an accident in the psychological thriller Unknown.

If you think about it, Neeson has kicked his way through more action roles than guys half his age, and there is more to come after The Grey. He'll reprise his respective roles of Zeus and Bryan Mills in the sequels Wrath of the Titans and Taken 2 as well as play an admiral in Battleship and make an appearance—perhaps in a flashback scene—in The Dark Knight Rises.

Categories: Features, At Home
Tags: Liam Neeson
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