Liam Neeson returns to theaters this Friday as the protector of a young immigrant in "The Marksman." To prepare, we've rounded up his 9 best action films thus far.
More of a dark action comedy than a straight-up Liam Neeson action flick, the premise sounds fairly standard. Members of a drug cartel kill the son of a modest snow plow driver. Snow plow driver goes berserk and starts taking them out one by one. That's what happens. But it's the way in which Neeson's wronged parent offs the bad guys, and the play-it-straight dark humor, that makes this one quite original in his filmography. Action fans might be a little thrown, but let this one marinate. It's got some great kills, and some killer laughs.
Run All Night
"Run All Night" is the stereotypical Liam Neeson action film -- but that's not a bad thing at all when everyone's at the top of their game. Neeson stars as an ex-hit man on the run with his son (Joel Kinnaman) after icing the drug-dealing offspring (Boyd Holbrook) of his former boss (the always reliable Ed Harris). Lots of blood is shed, loyalties crossed and gritty business is done. It's memorable, though, due to the tension between acting titans Neeson and Harris, and worthy turns from new generation stars Kinnaman and Holbrook, and Common as an assassin known as Mr. Price.
Over the decades, there have been lots of fun airborne thrillers ("Executive Decision," "Redeye," "Passenger 57," "Snakes on a Plane"). Add "Non-Stop" to the list, with Neeson once again solid as ever as a Federal Air Marshall tasked to uncover a killer who's determined to murder a passenger every 20 minutes during an international flight unless he gets his millions. Julianne Moore co-stars as a passenger who accepts her mission to help the marshall root out the bad guy.
A Walk Among the Tombstones
Directed by Scott Frank (Oscar nominated for his screenplays for "Out of Sight" and "Logan"), this neo-noir action flick finds Liam Neeson doing what he does best: adding grit to the character of a down-and-out detective turned private eye, and beating the crap out of lowlifes who truly deserve it. The story Frank's concocted is a complex tale that involves kidnappings and other horrible crimes, but it also lays out a compelling journey of redemption, and features Neeson in another memorable turn.
Fair warning: this isn't so much an action film (although it does have plenty of it) as it is an unforgettable, existential tale about what it means to be alive, and the reasons to fight for life. Liam Neeson and a motley crew manage to survive a plane crash in the Alaskan wild. But that's only the start of their adventure, as they're pursued across a snowy and barren landscape by wolves who decimate their number and test their limits to the extreme.
Drama / 2012 / R
"Taken" was the first movie to truly announce Liam Neeson's arrival as a bona fide and bankable action star. It's the one where he warns the kidnappers who take his daughter that he has a very special set of skills, and they'll soon find out about them firsthand. For evil human traffickers everywhere, it's the furious and righteous judgment they fear and deserve now come to pass. Liam Neeson will find you, and he will destroy you.
As Bruce Wayne/Batman's mentor Henri Ducard/Ra's al Ghul, Liam Neeson is the physical and mental embodiment of prowess and purpose. Leader of the mysterious League of Shadows, he's the mentor to take Wayne up to the next level (a role Neeson ably performed for Ewan McGregor's Obi-Wan, too, in "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace.") This is where "Batman Begins." And he wouldn't be here if not for Liam Neeson.
It took awhile for audiences to fully embrace Liam Neeson as a true action star on the level of the Schwarzeneggers and Stallones of the world. But the signs were there, even in the mid-90s. Check out "Rob Roy," the action-packed story about the adventures of the real-life historical figure who led his 18th century Scottish clan against the injustices of a corrupt nobleman. It's got everything - romance, politics, epic combat and a leading man who's worth following into battle.
Long before the MCU or even the first big Spider-Man movie, Liam Neeson had entered into the superhero fray in "Darkman" (directed by "Spider-Man's" Sam Raimi), playing a scientist who's horribly disfigured by gangsters. Determined to have his vengeance, the newly christened "Darkman" has superhuman strength and creates disguises so that he can temporarily pose as other people. The film's a cult classic that early on pointed out Neeson's viability as a true hero.
About the Author
Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.