In 2015, when Liam Neeson was 63 years old, news that he was considering retiring from doing action movies was a surprise for virtually no one. After all, Taken 3 had just been released the previous year – and even by then, the Irish star was showing some clear signs that the years were finally catching up with him.
Now, seven years later, Neeson has walked back on those statements, with movies like this year’s Memory becoming an integral part of the actor’s filmography. Thanks to some very accommodating extras, Liam Neeson is still kicking all sorts of behind in action flicks each year, but, the question is: for how long are we supposed to believe that someone like Neeson could perform the daring stunts he plays in his films?
At seventy, most actors are thinking of retiring, perhaps enjoying their golden years basking in the sun or producing a film or two. Heck, Clint Eastwood reinvented his career once he turned 70, delighting the world with thoughtful and emotional films like Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino. If Eastwood had decided that he would still be doing cowboy films well into his eighties, his story might not have been the prime example of how to age gracefully in Hollywood that it is.
The problem with Liam Neeson is that his work in recent years has consisted almost entirely of action movies.
It is understandable why people might love his work in films such as Taken or Non-Stop since these films are made with audiences who want to see Neeson kick ass – but they have become commonplace for the actor. There is nothing wrong with an action star who can also be considered a serious actor (a la Mel Gibson), but what makes an ageing action hero great is their ability to reimagine themselves (like Bruce Willis).
Stagnation and becoming a cliché of themselves should be any actor’s worst fears in their twilight years. Liam Neeson is the perfect example of what happens to an action movie hero too comfortable with their career choice.
This typecasting isn’t necessarily a bad thing though; after all, many classic actors only did one genre in their careers (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino) that are still appreciated today. The difference between them and Neeson is that they didn’t leave their fans wanting more – they knew when it was time to move on and let someone else take over a role.
It would be a whole different story if Neeson was incapable of acting in anything that wasn’t even remotely action-oriented, but the actor has done some incredible work in serious dramas that will be remembered for generations. Who could forget the Liam Neeson from Schindler’s List, or the one from Silence?
There is no doubt in my mind that Liam Neeson has given us some fantastic performances in his lifetime, but if we’re being honest here, most people don’t think of him for anything other than action movies.
Despite his age, Neeson’s career is at a crossroads. He needs to figure out whether he wants to stay relevant in Hollywood or retire altogether so that he doesn’t become known as “that guy who used to do action flicks.” I’m sure the Irish actor can find a way around this predicament, but in order to continue making good movies, he either has to start playing roles that aren’t action-oriented or take breaks between productions: a luxury that he might no longer afford at his age.
It’s time for Liam Neeson to make use of those acting skills he has acquired over his very long career, and step away from the action movies for good.