With Liam Neeson’s new film Run All Night hitting theaters this last weekend, I’ve decided to take a look back at the action stars strange and transformative career. Run All Night was an entertaining, if predictable, entry into the man’s filmography and, if you have some free time, it’s not a bad time killer. Here’s what I consider to be Liam Neeson’s top 5 performances!
Oskar Schindler – Schindler’s List (1993)
Starting off with an easy choice, Liam Neeson’s turn as German Nazi Member Oskar Schindler is probably Neeson’s most celebrated performance. For good reason, as he brought an enormous amount of depth and sympathy to a character that could have been seen as harsh or calculating. Schindler’s List is one of director Steven Spielberg’s finest films to date and one that everyone should seek out at least once. One particular moment towards the end when Schindler bursts into tears sealed Neeson’s fate as one of the finest actors around.
Ra’s al Ghul – Batman Begins (2005)
Superhero fans can be fickle. It’s no secret, and some found Liam Neeson playing Batman’s nemesis/mentor Ra’s al Ghul a strange choice, to say the least. Fortunately for us, Neeson was more than up to the task and brought an added layer of depth to this “crazy”, radical, destruction-seeking badass. Of the films on this list, I imagine Batman Begins is the one seen by the most people. If you haven’t taken the dive into Nolan’s (mostly) epic Batman trilogy, now’s a great time to do it, before our new Affleck driven Batman comes into play!
John Ottway – The Grey (2011)
In his later years, Liam Neeson has gotten quite comfortable playing the cool, calm badass that we know and love from films like Taken. For me, though, it’s when he plays a demon filled, reserved type that he gets to show off a greater range. 2011’s The Grey was a very subversive type of role for Neeson. At times, he was that cool calm hero we’ve come to expect, but at others he was an alcohol-soaked sharpshooter with nothing much to live for. When he needs to lead a group of men through a brutal storm we get to see both sides of Neeson’s typical acting style, but he plays the role of John with such subtle nuance that I was blown away by his performance. One scene that’s stuck with me is when he talks to a dying man and helps lead him to accepting death. It’s a gut-wrenching scene that sets the stage for not only one of Neeson’s best performances, but also one of his best films in general.
Alfred Kinsey – Kinsey (2004)
If you’re looking for a more subversive role in Neeson’s long filmography, look no further than his turn as Alfred Kinsey. The 2004 biopic centers on the title character who was a pioneer in the field of sexology (yes, it’s a real thing). Truthfully, I haven’t seen the film since it came out so I’m fuzzy on a lot of the plot details, but one thing that’s always stood out was Neeson’s masterful portrayal of the man behind the sex. Its subject matter may prove off-putting for some viewers, but those who can enjoy heavily sexualized dialogue and themes should find this film more than entertaining. Plus it has an equally terrific performance from actress Laura Linney.
Matthew Scudder – A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014)
I’ll start off by saying right now this movie isn’t going to be for everyone. Many people saw the trailer and assumed it would be another Taken-esque action film. The truth is, this is a hard knocked detective story with a very, very grim pace. Neeson plays Matthew Scudder, a disgraced police officer turned private eye who is hired to investigate a pair of depraved murderers. Seeing Neeson play such a tortured soul trying to atone for his sins was both familiar and oddly different from anything I’d seen him do in the past. While the movie overall may not be amazing, his performance is, and it’s worth seeing the film just for that.
Run All Night is currently playing in theaters, and while it may not be his best performance or movie, its certainly worth a watch for committed Neeson fans. Give it a chance!