Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday's Top 5... Liam Neeson "Tough Guy" Performances

#5: Bryan Mills, Taken

The Taken series probably isn't anyone's idea of high art, but one of the reasons why the first film engaged such a wide audience in the first place, and then managed to stretch the premise into two more films, is because Neeson manages to avoid "playing down" to the material and instead plays it straight and serious even when things veer way over the top.

#4: Ra's al Ghul, Batman Begins

Neeson can't claim to have played the best villain in Christopher Nolan's Batman series, but his performance helps make Ra's al Ghul the shadow that hangs over the series by virtue of his role in helping to turn Bruce Wayne into Batman in the first place, and the fact that he also makes an appearance in The Dark Knight Rises so that the character sort of bookends the series. As the villain, Neeson makes for a fine foil for Christian Bale's hero.

#3: Bad Cop/Good Cop/Pa Cop, The Lego Movie

In The Lego Movie Neeson manages to send up his tough guy image without lapsing into self-parody, which is no easy feat (just ask Robert De Niro, whose forays into comedy tend to tarnish, rather than bolster, his most memorable dramatic performances). He also manages to transition seamlessly between the many personas of his multi-faced character - but his growly performance as the "bad" side is the best part.

#2: Rob Roy MacGregor, Rob Roy

Coming from the period in his career when he was better known for period pieces than action movies, Neeson's performance as Rob Roy MacGregor isn't in exactly the same mold as the others in this list, but the character has more than a few similarities to the Taken-esque roles that he plays year after year. A strong man guided by a personal code of honor, MacGregor is motivated largely by the desire to remove those he loves from harm's way and is relentless in ensuring that that happens. No matter how many people Neeson has shot and punched and beaten to a pulp since the turn of this century, the climactic sword fight in Rob Roy remains his best action sequence.

#1: John Ottway, The Grey

The man fights wolves. It doesn't get much tougher than that. He also brings a level of soulfulness and gravitas to the performance that it helps the film rise above whatever genre trappings it may be said to possess so that it becomes something just a little bit more.

2 comments:

Wendell Ottley said...

At this stage, Neeson is just playing the same guy over and over. I'd personally have his role in Taken as #1 since that's the one that sort of "started it all" as far as his tough guy image is concerned. Just about everyone after that is the same character with a different name. Glad to see you included Good Cop/Bad Cop. Haven't seen Rob Roy, though. That sounds interesting, might have to check that out.

Norma Desmond said...

Rob Roy is definitely a different type of tough guy than the other ones, and the film is a bit more "high brow" than most of the films of this particular period in Neeson's career.