Ahead of the release of Taken 3 starring Liam Neeson, we take a look at the actor’s best movies to date and his transition from Mr Nice Guy to Hollywood’s toughest hard man.
Taken 3 is released in cinemas on Thursday January 15, with plenty of flying bullets and Liam Neeson in full tough guy mode as Bryan Mills. But the Northern Irishman with the gravely tones wasn’t always the Hollywood hard man he’s become. With a sold list of dramas, horror and thrillers on his CV, at 62, action films have come to him late, but he clearly still has plenty more to give. Before we head to cinemas to see his latest grizzly performance, we look back at some of the star’s cinematic highlights.
High Spirits (1988)
Neeson played Martin Brogan, one of his first major international roles. Not one of the most celebrated films – Daryl Hannah was nominated for a Razzie (an award given each year for Hollywood’s worst) for her part in the movie. Still, it’s very funny and worth watching for a chance see a young Neeson play an Irish ghost who kills his bride on her wedding her night and is caught in a cycle of repeating the event until he falls in love with one of the guests at the haunted castle. While the film itself is rather odd, Neeson is all rage, passion and seduction and makes great use of that lilt.
Schindler’s List (1993)
This is the film that put Neeson’s name on Hollywood directors’ lips. The stunning black and white movie won a flurry of awards, including seven Academy Awards the year it was release. It’s considered to be one the greatest American films ever made, and tells the true story of German businessman Oskar Schindler who saves the lives of more than a thousand polish refugees during the Second World War by employing them in his factories. Directed by Steven Spielberg, Neeson was not the first choice for the lead part, Mel Gibson and Kevin Costner were both considered, but the relatively unknown Neeson won the part to give what is considered to be his finest performance.
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
The jury may still be out on how good The Phantom Menace is, and despite criticism from fans of the film, Neeson cuts a fine figure as Jedi Master Qui Gon Jinn. Tall and rangy in his brown Jedi robes and lethal with a light sabre, he mentors young Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) in what could be considered the start of his action-studded career.
Love Actually (2003)
In this sweet British rom-com Neeson plays widower Daniel who, along with his son, is trying to come terms with the loss of his wife. Showing his tender side and that Irish charm, Neeson may not have won many awards for this role but he certainly won a few hearts.
Batman Begins (2005)
Alongside Christian Bale and Michael Caine, Neeson more than holds his own in the villainous role of Henri Ducard, the man who takes recently orphaned Bruce Wayne under his wing and into his home and mentors him to one day destroy Gotham City. Eventually revealed to be the evil Ras Gul, it was in this film that Neeson began to wave goodbye to his Mr Nice Guy reputation and revel in his dark side, with a side of martial arts thrown in.
What started as a small-fry film (Neeson himself said he thought it would go ‘straight to video’) has become a franchise in its own right that has racked up millions in global box offices and catapulted Neeson to superstardom. He was looking for a more physical role and he certainly got it with this part. Bryan Mills is a retired CIA agent who will stop at nothing to get his daughter back after she is kidnapped in Paris. Neeson and his fans relished the action in this movie. The actor even learned Nagasu Do – a hybrid martial art that borrows from the arts of Judo, Aikido and Ju Jitsu – to play the role.
The A-Team (2010)
Playing the cigar-sucking man with a plan, Neeson ramps up his action chops next to Bradley Cooper, Quinton Jackson and Sharlto Copley as Hannibal in The A-Team. The film took more than US$77 million (Dhs282 million) in the States on its opening weekend and was so successful that there’s been talk of a sequel.
The Grey (2011)
When their plane crashes in the wilderness of Alaska, a group of six oil workers are left to fend for themselves and survive the harsh environment. Neeson plays the group’s leader, Ottaway, a skilled huntsman who kills the wolves that threaten the group. But as they make their way through the woods, the wolf pack hunt them down and Ottaway has to dig deep to fight the flesh hungry menaces.
Taken 3 is out in cinemas across the UAE from January 15.