Retrospective: Top 10 Liam Neeson Roles | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Retrospective: Top 10 Liam Neeson Roles

Retrospective: Top 10 Liam Neeson Roles

From playing real-life historical figures including Oskar Schindler, Rob Roy MacGregor, Michael Collins and Alfred Kinsey to iconic roles that sees him trained a Jedi and Batman, Northern Ireland-born actor Liam Neeson is no doubt one of the best character actors for the modern generation working today in Hollywood. Even though he has already stretched at the age of 62, there's still no sign of him slowing down in his acting career and only gets better as he grows older.

This coming September 18, Neeson returns with another dramatic role in Scott Frank-directed crime drama A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES and to honour for his upcoming performance, let's take a look back at Liam Neeson's ten best movie roles below:

10. Rob Roy MacGregor, ROB ROY (1995)

1995 was a banner year that saw a fair share of high-profile historical movies such as FIRST KNIGHT and of course, the hugely popular and award-winning Mel Gibson's BRAVEHEART. The other one was Michael Caton-Jones' ROB ROY. While the movie was plagued with pacing problem and Michael Caton-Jones' mostly pedestrian direction, ROB ROY remained a curiously intriguing historical epic to check out for. Liam Neeson was certainly born to play the charismatic 18th century Scottish noble hero, Rob Roy MacGregor. He paired well with his co-star Jessica Lange, who played Rob's wife Mary and he also best seen whenever he squared off against Tim Roth's Oscar-nominated wicked performance as the sociopathic Cunningham.

9. Peyton Westlake / Darkman, DARKMAN (1990)

Long before Liam Neeson was known for involving a number of high-profile Hollywood projects, he used to play an eccentric role for a B-movie. That B-movie in question was none others than Sam Raimi-directed DARKMAN back in 1990. Originally conceived as a big screen adaptation of THE SHADOW but unable to obtain the rights for the character, Raimi ended up crafting a unique superhero movie of his own that brilliantly mixes comic book-like mythology, classic monster genre and black comedy all rolled into one quirky B-movie package. At the heart of the movie was of course the casting of Liam Neeson. Here, he played his sympathetic anti-hero role as the ill-fated scientist Peyton Westlake with such dedication. Not only he managed to handle his dramatic performance well enough, he also proved to be a real sport during some of Raimi's trademark tongue-in-cheek moments. Among them of course was an over-the-top moment where Peyton got all fired up at the amusement park and told his girlfriend Julie (Frances McDormand) to "take the f**king elephant" stuffed toy.

8. Bill Marks, NON-STOP (2014)

As a Hitchcockian-like whodunit thriller, NON-STOP was certainly blessed with an intriguing premise and the movie wouldn't have worked if not for Liam Neeson's engaging performance as the relentless U.S. Federal Air Marshal Bill Marks. At the time of the movie's release, Neeson was already pushing at the age of 61 but he handled his equal share of dramatic flair and physically-demanding moments well enough. Need proof? How about the rousing moment where he was engaged on a claustrophobic fight scene inside a cramped toilet space?

7. John Ottway, THE GREY (2012)

Joe Carnahan's survival thriller THE GREY wasn't a typical action-adventure type that you might expected from this kind of movie. Instead, it's more of a metaphorical take of man vs. nature genre element. The movie, of course, was blessed with an emotionally-charged performance by Liam Neeson as the brooding oil-rig employee and expert marksman John Ottway.

6. Henri Ducard / Ra's al Ghul, BATMAN BEGINS (2005)

Christopher Nolan may have nailed the dark and brooding tone in BATMAN BEGINS and Christian Bale hits all the right button playing the best Batman/Bruce Wayne role ever, but this critically-acclaimed Batman reboot wouldn't be complete if not for Liam Neeson's perfectly shady and commanding performance as Henri Ducard who trained Bruce Wayne in martial arts. That's not all, as Neeson was also best remembered for surprised (many) viewers when his role was later revealed to be a two-faced character after all -- the movie's actual villain named Ra's al Ghul.


The first prequel of George Lucas' STAR WARS: EPISODE I - THE PHANTOM MENACE may have been financially successful at the box office worldwide but it's also a heavily-flawed movie greeted with mixed reviews. But for all the flaws here, one of the best things about this prequel was the inspired casting of Liam Neeson as Obi-Wan Kenobi's (Ewan McGregor) Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn. Neeson certainly brought a lot of nobility to his performance here which kind of reminded me of the late Sir Alec Guinness' masterful performance as the older Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original STAR WARS trilogy. Among Neeson's best moment in this prequel was of course the triple lightsabers duel between him, Obi-Wan Kenobi and the villainous Darth Maul (Ray Park) during the climactic finale.

4. Michael Collins, MICHAEL COLLINS (1996)

Despite the involvement of acclaimed Irish director Neil Jordan (THE CRYING GAME, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE: THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES) and several notable casts including Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman and Aidan Quinn in the historical biopic MICHAEL COLLINS, the movie was surprisingly greeted with lukewarm response at the box office. Still, this lesser-known Neil Jordan's directorial effort was best remembered for one of Liam Neeson's finest performances yet as the real-life Irish revolutionary patriot Michael Collins who fought against the British Empire during the Irish civil war. Here, he displayed great charisma and passionate acting performance to his character that easily outshone his co-stars. Yes, he was that magnetic in MICHAEL COLLINS.

3. Alfred Kinsey, KINSEY (2004)

The word "Liam Neeson" and "sex education" certainly sounded odd if two of them were to be mashed together in the same sentence, but Liam Neeson definitely nailed his role as the real-life biologist-turned-sexologist Alfred Kinsey in Bill Condon's captivating biopic KINSEY. Apart from Neeson's powerful performance (a role that earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor), he paired well with the never-better Laura Linney as Kinsey's wife, Clara where both of them brought tremendously wonderful rapport as a strong-willed couple.

2. Bryan Mills, TAKEN (2008)

This was the late-career resurgence that famously boosted Liam Neeson's popularity as one of the most sought-after aging actors playing action-oriented roles. Thanks to producer Luc Besson and director Pierre Morel, TAKEN had certainly introduced a brand-new Liam Neeson where he managed to surprise everyone with his physically-demanding action role as an ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills who possessed "a very particular set of skills". Who could have thought that he was able to fight so convincingly in hand-to-hand combat as well as handling weapons like a seasoned pro? One particular scene worth watching for was the final knife fight scene in the cabin setting, which was brilliantly shot in one-take.

1. Oskar Schindler, SCHINDLER'S LIST (1993)

Winner of 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director (Steven Spielberg), SCHINDLER'S LIST was not only one of the most harrowing Holocaust dramas ever made but also best remembered for Liam Neeson's breakthrough lead performance as Oskar Schindler. His critically-acclaimed performance earned him a well-deserved Oscar nomination for Best Actor (but unfortunately lost to Tom Hanks for PHILADELPHIA) as well as plenty of other accolades, and also put him in the Hollywood map as one of the most sought-after leading actors for subsequent high-profile movie projects.
Check back for my advance review of A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES this coming Wednesday on September 17!

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