On the heels of his newfound success as an action star, Liam Neeson was cast in the big screen adaptation of Stephen J. Cannell’s ‘80s TV series, The A-Team. Neeson played John "Hannibal" Smith, the leader of a wrongly accused group of military men who escape from prison in order to clear their names.
That The A-Team works at all is a testament to the skills of Neeson and his co-stars, Bradley Cooper, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson and Sharlto Copley. But it was probably not a good idea to cast Jessica Biel as one of the primary military antagonists who is sent to capture the team. The words “not believable” come to mind there.
The majority of Star Wars fans tend to point to Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace as one of the low points of the franchise. To be sure, it’s not a very good film. But all of the best parts of the movie revolve around Liam Neeson as Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn.
Neeson’s midi-chlorian count is so high that he seems incapable of delivering a bad performance, even against co-stars like Jar Jar Binks. Qui-Gon is actually compelling and fun to watch when the movie isn’t taking detours into poop jokes and a Pod-racing sequence that seems to go on forever.
The epic lightsaber battle at the end of the film was also a highlight, even though it meant that Qui-Gon wouldn’t physically be around for the rest of the Prequel trilogy.
Because Taken was such a surprise box office hit, Taken 2 was inevitable. In turn, Taken 2’s even bigger box office led to Taken 3 coming out later this week.
This time around, Neeson’s franchise character, Bryan Mills and his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen) are kidnapped as revenge for Bryan’s actions in the first film. But it’s not long before Bryan escapes and once again rains Hell down upon his enemies.
The ending even sets up the next sequel by establishing that the main villain has two more sons to carry out the family vendetta against the Mills clan.
A Walk Among the Tombstones is one of the more recent Liam Neeson action flicks. This time, he plays Matthew Scudder, a former cop-turned-unlicensed private investigator. After the wife of Kenny Kristo (Dan Stevens) is murdered by her kidnappers, Scudder reluctantly agrees to track down her killers.
This isn’t as action heavy as some of Neeson’s other films, but A Walk Among the Tombstones is diverting enough if you want to see Neeson occasionally kick some ass while waiting for the next Taken sequel to come out.
Continuing his 2014 action tour of duty, Neeson played another former cop named Bill Marks in Non-Stop. Neeson’s character is a U.S. Air Marshal who gets a terrorist ultimatum via text that promises a passenger on the plane will die every 20 minutes unless a large ransom is paid.
To complicate matters further, the captain is one of the first victims and Marks gets framed for hijacking the plane. Things get even crazier before Non-Stop is over, and Neeson once again elevates a standard action thriller into something more entertaining as his character desperately tries to save the day... and himself.
The Grey could have been marketed as “Liam Neeson punches a wolf” and people would have gone to see it.
But The Grey isn’t a normal action thriller. It’s a pretty bleak tale about a group of oil workers in Alaska who are hunted and killed by vicious wolves after their plane goes down. Neeson plays John Ottway, the defacto leader of the group, as he tries to keep everyone alive.
Unsurprisingly, John is the last man standing. But The Grey is unusually ambiguous about the fate of its lead character. Even the post-credit scene is open to interpretation.
11 years before Spider-Man came out, Sam Raimi had his first superhero-ish flim - Darkman. Neeson plays Peyton Westlake, a scientist who was researching artificial skin before he was maimed and left for dead by the mob. Westlake survives with hideous scars across his body, enhanced strength and an inability to feel pain. Neeson also does his best Bruce Campbell impression as Westlake’s sanity slips away. Campbell even has a cameo as one of Westlake’s disguises!
As for the action, Westlake becomes the vigilante Darkman and he proceeds to kill almost everyone who wronged him while protecting a pre-Fargo Frances McDormand, who played his love interest, Julie Hastings.
Darkman seems like it was designed to be a film franchise... and it was, with two Direct-to-Video sequels that replaced Neeson with Arnold Vosloo in the title role.
Back in the mid-’90s, Neeson headlined the historical epic Rob Roy as Rob Roy MacGregor, the man better known as the Scottish Robin Hood. After being wronged by Scottish aristocrats, Rob Roy wages a private war against them to reclaim his lands and his honor.
Rob Roy was one of Neeson’s first films to come out after Schindler's List established him as a prestige actor. Rob Roy wasn’t a huge box office hit, but it holds up well as one of Neeson’s best action flicks. And Rob Roy is long overdue for some recognition.
There are spoilers ahead for Batman Begins! If you haven’t seen this ten-year-old film yet... then you may be on the wrong website.
Director Christopher Nolan cast Neeson as one of Batman’s greatest villains in the first of his three Batman films. As Henri Ducard, Neeson is Bruce Wayne’s mentor and the man who trained him in the martial arts. But late in the movie, Ducard reveals himself to be Ra's al Ghul, the leader of the League of Shadows and the man who has been plotting Gotham City’s downfall for many years.
Neeson’s take on Ra's al Ghul helped the Batman film franchise by giving the title character a formidable foe who wasn’t The Joker. Ra's al Ghul’s influence was felt all the way to the end of The Dark Knight Rises, in which Neeson briefly reprised his role.
The late career renaissance of Liam Neeson owes everything to the original Taken. The first Taken was so wildly successful that people tend to forget that it was a low-budget French action film!
But it’s Neeson himself who made Taken into a hit. It’s very easy to believe that his character, Bryan Mills, has the “specific set of skills” to wreck havoc on the men who kidnapped his daughter. Neeson also brings a sense of humanity and desperation to Bryan. He may be capable of bringing down a slavery ring, but he’s also a family man who is willing to do whatever it takes to rescue his daughter.
Ordinarily, that would be the end of the story. But the big box office receipts of Taken meant that Bryan would have to save his family at least two more times onscreen. So bring on Taken 3!