Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Person of the Week

I'm Here to Report a Neeson Rating

      My last "Person of the Week" selection may have caused some to call into question my credibility as a purveyor of fine talent. I am here to debunk this notion. Without a shroud of bias or hesitation, I am once again thinking lucidly. I guess my partying binge with Charlie Sheen last week stymied my sound judgment. I should have been appalled by Mean Sheen's antics. He demanded the DJ play "Wild Thing," then threw a bag of coke on the table and started snorting it while watching old acting performances of himself on his iPad. Such an alarming scene should have been a warning to me. When it comes to erratic behavior, Charlie is in charge.

      Instead, I was captivated by this lurid and maniacal spectacle. It was cinematic. Witnessing the deliverance of such an unhinged and reckless force upon a group of unsuspecting partiers was, quite frankly, eerily reminiscent of disturbing scenes from movies I have seen; Tony Montana's cocaine obsession in Scarface, and the crippling drug addictions of the four characters in Requiem For a Dream immediately sprang to mind. I mistakenly thought a movie was being filmed, and what I was whimsically privy to was the proverbial protagonist's downward spiral.
      Rather, what I was actually witnessing was similar to another movie; Inception. I was a few hours deep into a strange dream—or perhaps, nightmare. Thus, in the spirit of redemption, last week's selection can be deduced to a calculus of thinking that was borne from a nightmarish dream. My rational faculties, under non-dream like circumstances, are still firmly intact.
      Phew. If I was going to party with a famous actor, Charlie Sheen would be my last choice—unless I was looking for a prostitute ridden, drug fueled haze of a night, capped off by an inevitable 6 am visit to the local precinct's criminal lock up.
      Ah, the mercurial nature of the dream world; thank you Christopher Nolan. According to TMZ & Slashfilm, Charlie Sheen wants to make another Major League. Perhaps, I wasn't dreaming?
      Well, if you have not caught onto my flagrant and overtly sarcastic anecdote, I am here to enlighten you...that last pick was an utter joke—one that purposely lacked merit. I'm back to reality. I'm back to rationality. I am in such a pent-up mood to prove my worthiness as a talent evaluator that my new "Person of the Week" award will go to the enormously talented Liam Neeson; to my knowledge, Liam has never snorted an illegal substance or engaged in a 24-hour drug and alcohol binge. His public demeanor is commensurate with that of a saintly family man.
      My selection of Liam Neeson is timely. His most recent starring role came in last week's number one box office champ, Unknown, which took home a reported $21.7 million. This is a pretty exciting turn of events as the mid-range, rather accessible thriller that cost $30 million to make was not expecting much of a successful opening weekend. While neither emphatic nor robust, the opening number does portend good news for the studio and the star. It proves that the young 58-year old action hero can pull in a good number—Taken was no fluke.

      I can't take credit for this clever moniker, but many attribute Liam Neeson's box office success to the "Clint Eastwood Effect." After all, Neeson has been a consummate actor for years, but it took until 2009 with the release of Taken for audiences to collectively realize how truly badass, and talented the Irish born, once youthful footballer is. The film grossed $145 million in the US during the controversial "dead period" of new releases (January).
      Beginning in the 1980s in productions such as Excalibur and Krull, Neeson would learn what it took to be a badass with small roles in The Delta Force—witnessing the badass virtuousness of Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin—and The Dead Pool—witnessing Clint Eastwood’s last run as the immortalized “Dirty” Harry Callahan. These early lessons would prove prescient for the Oscar nominee because he was given headlining roles in Sam Raimi’s Darkman and Rob Roy; perfect film vehicles to demonstrate Neeson's knack for action.
      Unequivocally, Liam's greatest acting display came in the vast historical epic from Stephen Spielberg, Schindler's List, which captured the egregious and tragic nature of the Holocaust. Playing the coveted role of Oskar Schindler, Neeson would earn nominations for an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, and a Golden Globe. More importantly, his status as a leading man would finally be solidified. The film going public is forever grateful because Neeson would employ this newfound pedigree, and carve out memorable film roles in Michael Collins, Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Gangs of New York, Love Actually, Kinsey, and Batman Begins.
      Fast-forward to contemporary times. Two years after we have been graciously Taken by the overwhelming awesomeness of Liam Neeson, he returns to badass mode in Unknown, a PG-13 thriller that's reminiscent of Jason Bourne’s amnesia-driven stunts, but instead of a spry Matt Damon, we have a 58-year-old trying to uncover his identity.

      Liam Neeson considers himself to be somewhat of a “pioneer” for the emergence of British actors in Hollywood. He is aware of the current crop of British thespians—Christian Bale, Andrew Garfield, and Henry Cavill will each be captaining major leading man roles—and he feels they owe a debt of gratitude to him for "flying the flag for British talent back in the 80s." Neeson is modest in his assessment and does not harbor all the credit. He cites some of his contemporary British actors as being "fellow revolutionaries."

“Myself, Gabriel Byrne, Gary Oldman paved the way in the 1980s, that’s why. We were pioneers and I’m saying that totally truthfully...There’s a couple of others,” he told Omelete

      I'll briefly chime in; by others, he most certainly is referring to the incredibly talented chameleon, Daniel Day-Lewis.
      Liam is enjoying a senior resurgence in the action genre. In fact, he expresses great pride for his muscular physique, which admittedly, he has worked very hard to achieve. The actor is approaching the tender age of 60, but he still adopts the spirit of a young and athletic busy bee.

“I don’t see myself as an action star. I’ve done Taken, I’ve done [Unknown] and hopefully we’re gonna do a Taken 2 in my 60th year - which is a long way off,” he teased. “But it’s nice. I like being physical, it’s good to be able to flex those muscles, do a bit of physical stuff.”

      Well, it is my job to correct you Liam Neeson because you are no Unknown in the action arena. You are a de facto action star. Your last two roles fantastically prove this point. The dual arsenal of your dramatic work and knack for action illustrate an important fact. In a caliber consistent with other foreign-born American stars such as Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, your pedigree, Mr. Neeson, fits right in line.

*The above video is an excellent "Greatest Hits," spoiler-ridden compilation of Liam Neeson's character in Taken. 

*Source for above quotes: http://www.musicrooms.net/showbiz/26752-liam-neeson-i-am-a-pioneer.html*


  1. I usually put Liam in the category of actors who are often present in films but I've never really developed an attitude towards them, beside Viggo Mortensen, Javier Bardem and similar actors.
    What I do like about him is that he often tends to have a warm, fatherly note to his roles ... which is nice, since I can't stand regular brutes. This is why my favourite of Liam's roles is the one from LOVE ACTUALLY.

  2. I am a huge Liam Neeson fan!!

    This is a great article, and you did a great job of highlighting his work. He was the perfect choice for the ultimate literary hero, Jean Valjean, in 1998's "Les Miserables." This is when I really took notice! I also thought he was great in "Gangs of New York." And "Batman Begins." And "Kinsey." And "Love Actually." Oh hell! He's just amazing!

  3. I love Liam as well. The very first time I saw him was way back when in Next of Kin with Patrick Swayze, Bill Paxton and Ben Stiller as a creepy mob boy. Liam was so perfect as an Appalachian backwoods hunter.

  4. @ Dezmond

    I understand exactly what you're saying there. I know some people who feel the same way about Liam.

    I must say I am not even remotely surprised by your favorite Liam Neeson role. That was a very good film!

    @ Rachel

    Thanks for the compliment and for stopping by!

    And yes, my head would get dizzy thinking about all his great roles. I was always intrigued by his ability to play a dark character in Batman Begins. As Dezmond correctly pointed out, he is very adept at exuding wholesome qualities of inherit goodness, so his evil turn was quite provocative.

  5. @ Melissa

    He is the quintessential good guy. Because of this fact, he is so easy to root for. I vaguely remember that film, but it sounds very cool. I'll have to revisit it.

  6. I think you'll enjoy it. It wasn't the most brilliant, but it sure was fun to watch. There were some other memorable faces in there as well like Helen Hunt.

  7. I'm planning to watch "Unknown" this weekend. I never figured Neeson for an action star before but his effective performance really adds a great deal to "Taken".

  8. @ Melissa

    Thanks. Sometimes fun is all I want out of a movie. I always appreciate a good movie recommendation and I trust your judgment!

    @ Jaccstev

    Good stuff. Neeson is definitely not your conventional action star, but once you glance at his track record, it's hard to deny. Certainly a late bloomer, the guy is so capable of inheriting the good-guy-needs-to-kick-some-ass role.

  9. Huge admirer of Liam Neeson's works & performance, and your wonderful feature of him seconds my thoughts.

    Very nice!

  10. I liked him very much in Schindler's list. I need to watch this unknown movie.

  11. Those two posters look so similar, it's ridiculous! :) I think Neeson is a 'mixed bag' - sometimes he manages to deliver, sometimes not. His performance in "Kinsey" remains one of my favorites.

  12. @ J-Son

    Thanks. Liam has quite an admirable following—something I wasn't too acutely aware before this post. That's great news to me.

    @ coolblogger

    Ah. His performance in Schindler's List was scintillating. And as a fan of Neeson, I encourage you to watch Unknown.

  13. Nebular

    Haha good catch. They're purposefully marketing Unknown in a way that appeals to the Taken crowd despite the fact that the comparisons are only surface deep. Obviously, they want to imitate Taken's surprising box office success in '09.

  14. He is one hell of an actor! Good choice man! :)

  15. Thanks bud! I can't wait for the sequel to Taken and watch 'em kick some more ass!

  16. huge huge huge fan of Neeson, he blew my mind in Taken as a very credible and believable hard ass and can't wait for Taken 2 which he finally agreed to do. He can do so many roles, Love actually , Taken and Batman Begins being some of his work I love the most, I only have to see his name credited to a movie and its enough to make me watch it. Great post, in full agreement

  17. @ Dempsey

    Thanks homie! Neeson has great depth, versatility, and he has proven he can furiously captain an action role.

    I also can't wait for Taken 2. That was definitely one of the surprise great films of 2009. I liked his villain role in Batman Begins also. It was a nice change of pace.