“Give me every revenge thriller you’ve got!”
I never, or at least rarely, like seeing talented actors get typecast. It was refreshing for Gary Oldman to break out of his “Scary Gary” image so dramatically with Prisoner of Azkaban and Batman Begins. My favorite Samuel L. Jackson performance is as the down-on-his luck Southerner in Black Snake Moan.
And now I’m gonna need Liam Neeson to start shaking it up.
Let me say off the top that I dig that Neeson is finally gaining some audience recognition for being a top-shelf actor. It’s hard for someone his age to go from regular supporting player to regular lead, but Neeson’s on a tear.
Unfortunately, a look at his imdb page indicates that it’s a might be a tear that’s going nowhere fast. Basically, you can break a good majority of his recent-years output into two categories.
One Liam Neeson role we’ve seen a lot of is the militant leader in a genre movie. I’m looking at Batman Begins, Clash of the Titans, Wrath of the Titans, The A-Team, and Battleship. It also seems to apply to an upcoming movie of his, Non-Stop, in which he plays “An air marshall [who] must spring into action aboard an international flight.”
Pic very unrelated.
The other Liam Neeson mold that Hollywood has cast is that of a badass family avenger. This applies to Taken, Taken 2, Seraphim Falls, and his potential upcoming project The All Nighter; it also applies somewhat imperfectly to The Other Man, The Next Three Days, and his other upcoming project, A Walk Among the Tombstones.
No word on if Neeson’s family is on the plane in Non-Stop, so I guess that one could technically fall into both categories.
(By the way, these are just the movies starring one guy. There’s no room or reason to turn this into a “Hollywood needs to do something new” rant, but jeez, they really do.)
Now, admittedly, there have been some movies that don’t neatly fall into the two broad Neeson stereotypes. His upcoming project The Third Person sounds like a significant change of pace, at least. The Grey — in addition to being fantastic — was a more realistic performance in a more realistic movie. By recent Liam Neeson standards, I mean.
Furthermore, I’m not specifically singling Neeson out for this, it just happens to be his year. This is an industry-standard story — actors and actresses have a devilishly difficult time switching gears. Someone, the studios or audiences or critics, simply cannot see them through any other lens. This is frustrating, because the man’s profession is supposedly “actor.”
Right now, they’ve got Neeson in a rut. A few years ago, it would have been Harrison Ford or Morgan Freeman. A few years from now, I might have to have a sit-down with Daniel Craig or Tom Cruise.
I remember reading an interview with Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch where he talked about how hard it was for him to find good roles that weren’t asexual, posh British men. Now, he’s fantastic at that, but I imagine that’s a frustrating box to be put in. At least based on my (extremely limited) experience with posh, asexual Brits.
Fortunately, it looks like there’s a lot of rising stars who are making their name as actors, not personalities. People like Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, or Michael Fassbender are headlining movies as different people more often than not. I just hope they don’t put handcuffs on the next breakouts, like Andrew Garfield or Chris Hemsworth.
YOU LEAVE HIM ALONE.