As of this past weekend, Liam Neeson’s string of box office successes is still in tact as The Grey comes in on top with about twenty million dollars in ticket sales. This pales a bit in comparison to his recent early-year windfalls with Taken and Unknown, but it’s still a testamnent to how much people dig Liam Neeson, and why shouldn’t they? He covers historical characters, plays a solid badass, and, on occassion, the villain. It’s no wonder he’s been cast in the upcoming debacle Battleship, and just in case you’re wondering, yes, it’s a movie based on the board game.
Question 1: Going solely by the trailer, first thoughts on “The Grey”?
Bill Coffin: Dig it. Yeah, I know healthy wolves generally don’t attack people, let alone act like they’re about to start some group hazing ritual normally reserved for those Spartan boys in 300. But, I don’t care. This movie looks like it’ll either be a straight-up badass man vs. nature contest (not exactly PC, but fine by me) or more of a parable on man vs. nature, but nature always gets its revenge story (also fine by me). I suspect it’ll be more of the second, since Liam’s character is a guy hired by an oil company to kill wolves pestering a remote station.
Steve Barker: Eh. Can’t say I’m too interested. I imagine there will be a lot of quiet scenes where a wolf will jump out and startle the audience. I do like the fact that the wolves don’t look like they’re CGI.
Tim Adkins: I didn’t understand the trailer at first. Was it some bizarre mash-up of Call of the Wild and Alive? After seeing it a few times, I’m not dissuaded from that notion. But there’s Liam Neeson. And, he is versus something. So…sign me up.
Dustin Freeley: Strangely conflicted on this one. I dig the Man vs. nature trope, but figure it’s going to bubble into a transparent allegory. Normally I dig the whole romantic futility of man angle, but the irony in Ottway’s assertion that he’s “protecting man from the dangers they cannot see” seems a bit force fed. At the same time, I like the makeshift, mini-liquor bottle claws, but, thanks to my Post-Traumatic Viewing Disorder inflicted by The Day After Tomorrow, I can’t see wolves without chuckling, or wishing they had victoriously eaten Jake Gyllenhaal.
Jared Wade: Is this a serious question? Amazing. Man vs. wolf is infinitely more appealing than The Wolfman. And the way he fashions Wolverine claws out of mini-liquor bottles is undoubtedly the best use of affixing glass to knuckles in a combat situation since Van Damme in Kickboxer.
Question 2: Neeson has run the gamut of historical characters, badasses, and villains, so what’s the best genre of Neeson?
Bill Coffin: He plays the badass mentor a fair bit, a role that seems to be well-suited for him, and would probably define him as a character actor were he not so capable to carrying movies all on his own. Personally, I am enjoying his badass movies the most, but they come with a bit of sadness, too. These are all after his wife, Natasha Richardson, died after a fluky skiing accident. I wonder if these movies aren’t just him doing action, but dealing with the anger that is a part of grief.
Steve Barker: I must admit I haven’t seen a lot of Nesson’s movies. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never seen Schinder’s List. It’s been on the bottom of my Netflix queue for years. I do think he was one of the only good things about Episode One. He makes a good Jedi.
Tim Adkins: I think he’s best in historical roles. He brings a combination of weight and sincerity to those characters that bridges the gap between “based on a true story” and documentary. It’s always understood that Michael Collins, Schindler’s List, Kinsey, etc. employ a good deal of creative license portraying different historical moments, but you can kinda take Liam Neeson’s word for it that how he depicts it is how it really went down.
Dustin Freeley: Ever since I learned that Rob Roy McGregor was a notorious fence-sitter whose m.o. was to wait for one side to outnumber another before slipping in at the back of the winning rabble, I can’t see historical characters without asking, “Is he sure this is how it happened?” By default, I’m going badass. (As a note, my source of this information might have been senile, but he was friendly, Scottish, and gave me a travel-sized bottle of Famous Grouse, so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt.)
Jared Wade: The dramatic Liam. As much as I love his “thinking man’s Steven Seagal” role in Taken, his renditions of Oskar Schindler and Michael Collins are the two best performances of his career. Those are indispensable films, largely on the strength of his work, in that they give us a personal depiction of what went down during two of the most important periods in modern Western civilization. To take the viewer beyond the textbook like that while also creating a great movie is arguably the apex of cinema’s mission in our culture.
Question 3: Doesn’t have to the “best,” but what Neeson movie is on your “watch it to the end list” if you’re flipping through stations?
Bill Coffin: Lately, it would be Taken, but really just about anything Neeson has been in, I’ve quite enjoyed (with the exception of Clash of the Titans). Last night, I saw that Rob Roy is going to play on BBC America this weekend, and my first thought was, “Looks like I’m watching Liam kill some English folks.”
Steve Barker: Taken. I’ve never actually seen this movie from beginning to end, but I stop on it every time it’s on TV. The action is always entertaining, and it’s perfect to flip to during a time out break of an NBA game.
Tim Adkins: I watch Batman Begins at any time of day, night or holiday for one scene. Bruce Wayne has just set a fire at Ra’s Al Ghul’s mountaintop camp and beat up 50 ninjas in order to make a daring escape. Wayne’s mentor, Henri Ducard, has been knocked unconscious and is sliding down the mountain toward his death. Wayne leaps after him and snare’s Ducard’s hand just as the limp body has found the edge of the cliff. Wayne clings to the cliff with one hand and his friend with the other and somehow saves them both. Not long after I saw that scene for the first time, I started working out with a trainer. She asked me what my goals were. I thought it over and declared: “I want to be able to hang off a cliff and curl Liam Neeson.”
Dustin Freeley: Most often, it’s Batman Begins. Like many, I dig the Bat, and Wayne’s scenes with Ducard cum Ra’s contain some of the best training sequences as of late. At the same time, I’ll watch Darkman from whenever the remote the lands, in part because I haven’t seen it in forever, and it’s one of the more underrated superhero films.
Jared Wade: Definitely Taken. His quest to rescue his daughter and destroy the men who abducted her is the greatest leap forward for the feminist movement since women’s suffrage.