Ed Driscoll

Liam Neeson's Surprising Box Office Resurgence

As Kyle Smith notes, Liam Neeson, while always a respected actor, is becoming increasingly bankable in action hero roles:

Hollywood is all about youth — except when it’s time to bust some heads.

Seems the most reliable action heroes on screen these days get those AARP fliers in the mail – Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and, more recently, Liam Neeson.

“Unknown’s” hearty box office haul over the weekend proved audiences can’t get enough of Neeson as an action star even if they didn’t buy him as Hannibal in the ill-advised “A-Team” feature.

Recent action vehicles from Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson, the torch carriers of the ’80s action hero movement, both got ignored by movie audiences — “The Mechanic” and “Faster,” respectively.

The 58-year-old Neeson’s career reinvention started with “Taken,” the 2008 sleeper that reminded us he could be ferocious if push came to proverbial shove. But why would action junkies crave a 50-something actor when they can watch Statham or Johnson crack skulls with impunity?

When Neeson was cast as the successor to George Peppard in the big screen version of A-Team, my first thought was, how does a guy go from Schindler’s List to The A-Team? (Insert infamous David Hemmings quote here.) But as Kyle notes above, it sounds like a misfire as part of a very well thought out career decision by Neeson, spotting a niche to be filled. Unlike Arnold Schwarzenegger or George Clooney, he hasn’t alienated half the American public by being overly political (or in Arnold’s case, having spent the decade off on a political folly). Unlike Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson, he hasn’t publicly imploded in a psycho-emo-epistemological meltdown. And unlike Clint, Sean, and increasingly Harrison, he’s not too old to be believable as an action hero.

As the kids say on the Interwebs these days, well played, Mr. Neeson, well played.