Liam Neeson has been established as awesome. You can’t refute it; it’s established. He’s awesome in a way that studios can’t understand. Typically the studios assume that we need someone young and hip headlining movies in order for people go to see the action movies. However when I hear people talk about the new Clash of the Titans movie, all I hear are people repeating Neeson’s dramatic—and silly line—“Release the Kracken.” That is awesome.
He has always been a go-to guy if the character needs to be instantly prestigious. His presence adds a sense of weight even if there’s nothing on page. In the opening scene of Gangs of New York, he plays a character that is considered noble and respected, even honored. He only has a few moments to convey this position and Neeson seems to do it naturally. This also applies to his roles in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and even just his voice in the Narnia films. I’d follow that lion. In the aforementioned Clash of the Titans he appears as a freakin’ god who, in the trailer, is glowing white. Very few can pull that off.
He doesn’t always just stand around looking amazing; he also beats people up in violent ways. Oh yes, Neeson is also convincing as an action star. One of the most liked actions movies of late was the film Taken. Taken isn’t strong on plot. It’s mostly just Neeson running around Paris for 90 minutes beating up anyone who comes in his way of saving his daughter. He is going to be in the anticipated A-Team adaptation starring as Col. Hannibal Smith. If that is successful he may have another franchise under his canon. He already made his mark in the extremely profitable Batman reboot as the ninja-esque Ra’s al Ghul.
That wasn’t his first time playing a morally ambiguous character. There is no traditional antagonist in the latest Hayao Miyzaki film, Ponyo, but throughout most of the movie the heroine is opposed to Neeson’s Fujimoto. In one of my favorite films of his, Darkman, he is supposed to be the superhero but is mostly on the verge of violent insanity. Neeson approaches the role by focusing on the character’s humanity much like he did with his acclaimed performance as Oskar Schindler. In his new film After.Life he calls upon these skills once more to play a mysterious (and perhaps malicious) funeral director who knows about the supernatural happenstances of Christina Ricci.
However, for me, my favorite roles of Neeson are when he’s playing a more vulnerable human being. Obviously Schindler’s List, but also his part in the ensemble comedy Love Actually or as the sex-scientist Alfred Kinsey in the titled biopic. It are these roles where I think he is able to show his range beyond the badass or the dark mentor. I would like to see him in more roles like this where he may even be allowed to tell a joke or two. I wouldn’t want to an actor this good to be typecast.