This past weekend, Liam Neeson’s “The Grey” was the top grossing film at the box office.

How is it possible that ‘a man fighting a wolf in the wild’ brings in millions of people to the theater?  The answer is quite simple: Liam Neeson.  But to really understand the answer to this question requires a deeper look at the man.

To start, let me call out a few high profile actors who in different ways have demonstrated their brilliance.  Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro, Daniel Day-Lewis – these are guys who have transformed themselves for audiences, won numerous awards and are seen as the best actors of modern cinema.

Liam Neeson is not one of those guys.

But he doesn’t need to be.  Whether you know it or not, Liam Neeson’s contributions to movies spans 30 years and like some of his more recognized brethren, deserves our accolades.  My arguments:

  • He is an incredible actor
  • His cool factor is unmatched
  • His movies have become new classics

He is an Incredible Actor

I don’t think this argument needs that much support.  Is anyone going to debate his incredible performance in Schindler’s List?  The emotional journey of that character from callous businessman to painfully sympathetic humanitarian was incredibly powerful, climaxing into his final scene at the train station.

I suppose the biggest criticism (in comparing him with other actor greats) is how far he has had to stretch.  I mean his amazing performances in Rob Roy and Michael Collins were probably Liam Neeson just acting as himself after a couple of shots of whiskey.

But, let me call out Kinsey as an absolutely brilliant Liam Neeson performance where he certainly had to stretch out of his normal comfort zone.  In the biographical film, Neeson plays real-life Professor Alfred Kinsey who researched and published works on sex and sexology in the 1940s and 1950s.  He won Best Actor from the Los Angeles Film Critics and was nominated for a Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award.

 

His Cool Factor is Unparalleled

The greatest actors in the world are not necessarily guys you would want to spend time with.  Have you ever seen DeNiro on Saturday Night Live?  Have you ever just heard DeNiro speak?  His acting is brilliant – his social skills leave much to be desired.  There are also countless examples of Brando that fall into the realm of pretty strange to extremely strange (I believe Brando had 11+ children with 7+ different women).

Liam Neeson on the other hand follows the Paul Newman school of aging with grace and coolness.  Let me cite the following:

  • Liam Neeson used to amateur box – Of course he did
  • Liam Neeson used to work as a fork lift driver at the Guiness Brewery – Of course he did
  • Liam Neeson woo’d Helen Mirren in the early 80s when she was insanely good looking – Of course he did

What else would you expect?  He is the Irish version of the Dos Equis Guy.

 

His movies have become new classics

Obvious Blockbusters:

1)      Liam Neeson played Jedi Knight Qui Gon Jin, the mentor of Obi Wan Kenobi and the discoverer of the boy from the prophecy.

2)      Liam Neeson played Ra’s Al Ghul, the mentor that spawned Batman in Batman Begins.

80s cult films:

1)      Dark Man – Created the character that spawned some really bad sequels

2)      Krull – Part of a gang of thieves in this budget fantasy film

3)      Next of Kin – Plays a red neck with an attitude

“I forgot he was in that awesome movie” category:

1)     Excalibur – A small part in the definitive Arthur film which also featured Helen Mirren and Patrick Stewart

2)      The Mission – An early role with acting powerhouses Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Irons

3)     The Bounty – Another early role next to Anthony Hopkins and a young Mel Gibson.  Despite being side by side consistently with great actors, Liam Neeson always holds his own.

4)      Gangs of New York – Who else could Scorsese ask when casting an Irish priest who kicks ass?

 

Lastly, let me just say that Liam Neeson has found a way to stay relevant in a smart way as he gets older.  He was explosive in Taken, was crafty as Hannibal Smith in the A-Team, dabbled in Romance in Love Actually (don’t deny you’ve seen this), and most recently was hysterical in a ‘Life’s Too Short’ video:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MKTh7zBIcrM

 

And now once again, he shows off his box office brilliance with The Grey.

So there you have it.  Can you think of anyone else that can touch Liam Neeson?

I think the answer is no.  With the criteria of acting chops, iconic films and coolness factor, Liam Neeson is and remains in a class all his own.

 

Liam Neeson – Movie Raiders Salute You!

4 Responses to The Grey’s Liam Neeson: An Unparalleled Legacy

  1. kenzo says:

    Talk about a unique actor who has silently made a gazillion films. He’s a character actor who somehow found his way into leading man roles. He pretty much plays the same character in every film but he does that character very well. Why do we like him? Because unlike most studio film stars, this guy looks like he’s gone through hell. He’s convincing. Haggard, beat up. His face is worth a thousand words. Good to see MovieRaiders give Liam props.

  2. John says:

    I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.

  3. John says:

    Great post, and I am big on Liam Neeson. He has been awesome many times. It’s worth mentioning that his connection to Krull is one of the things that got this whole blog thing off the ground.

    However – I have to add some differing views here:

    * The “A-Team” is un-watchable. I say this because I actually didn’t make it through the movie after two separate attempts. This was a part that Liam should have said “No” to. Bradley Cooper is dicey, he makes making bad movies look easy sometimes.

    * “Love Actually” – dude?

    * I was trying to think of my favorite Liam Neeson performance. I think its a toss up between “Michael Collins” and “Taken.” He does possess a “certain set of skills.” People will chastise me for not even mentioning “Schindler’s List” – he was amazing in that, but that wasn’t may FAVORITE performance. It was great though.

    * We are going to spend more times on the Star Wars pre-quel’s, I do think that Qui-Gon was a good performance by Liam – but like many things in “Phantom Menace,” his role wasn’t as good as it could have been because of that script. Jar-Jar Binks and Liam got a lot of on “green screen” time together.

    * I am going to agree with you on “Darkman” that was a solid film. I feel like Liam carried that movie. Though Frances Macdormand was a great love interest. His villain adversary was Larry Drake? Known best by me as the star of “Dr. Giggles.” Yeah, I went there.

    * Liam somehow has managed to dodge Michael Bay, but I think that “Battleship” is going to be a similar experience to working with the Prince of Darkness, a.k.a. the “king of popcorn.”

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