Run All Night marks the end of an era. The same week it made its arrival into theaters, where it was ultimately pummeled by Cinderella and her ugly stepsisters, Liam Neeson announced that he plans to retire from the action genre in the next few years.
“The success of certainly the Taken films, Hollywood seems to see me in a different light. I get sent quite a few action-oriented scripts, which is great. I’m not knocking it. It’s very flattering. But there is a limit, of course.”
An actor who has starred in such films as Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List and Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives, Neeson came to the realization that he, like Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon, was just “too old for this s***.” At 62, the Irishman isn’t getting any younger and has decided to put down his dukes and move his acting career in a different direction.
The timing couldn’t have been better. Outside of superhero movies, action movies have been dropping in quality. Run All Night is solid for what it delivers — it’s a revenge flick with added gravitas by Liam Neeson and co-star Ed Harris — but to audiences who have grown accustomed to seeing Neeson in Taken mode (which is just an offshoot of Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer character from the TV series 24), it is seen as a disappointment.
With Neeson’s impending retirement from action movies, it begs the question on who will come along to replace him? Standing a staggering six-foot-four, he’s an actor of merit with very big shoes that need to be filled. The key is finding a respected actor to make the transition to becoming the next thespian action hero.
Guys like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were prototypical action stars of the 1980s and early 1990s. Had either of them been the star of Run All Night, the story may have gone a different direction entirely.
Sean Penn will attempt to be an action hero with the release of The Gunman, from French filmmaker Pierre Morel. (Coincidentally, Morel launched Neeson’s action era with 2008’s Taken.) The closest Penn has been to an action movie was Sydney Pollack’s political thriller The Interpreter (2005) with Nicole Kidman. The 54-year-old has bulked up tremendously for the film, which he co-wrote and produced, but early signs look like he’ll be back to more dramatic roles shortly.
Actually, with Colin Firth recently finding success as the marquee lead in Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, where he plays a Guinness-drinking spy for a clandestine organization, he may be a suitable replacement. Or it could be wishful thinking that someday the cast of the ensemble Christmas-set romantic comedy Love Actually will find themselves starring in their very own action movies. It’s happened with Liam Neeson. Now Colin Firth. Who’s next?
Fingers crossed for the eventual pairing of Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant in a buddy action movie that’s a cross between The Matador and Midnight Run.
As for Liam Neeson, after Run All Night, he’ll be seen in this summer’s Ted 2. He’s currently filming Silence with Martin Scorsese.
[Image via Warner Bros. Pictures]