Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
October 9, 2012
Max Braden: Sean Connery did The Rock when he was 66, Harrison Ford did Crystal Skull when he was 65, and Stallone turned 66 this summer ahead of the release of The Expendables 2 and the upcoming Bullet to the Head. I'd say there's still time for Neeson, and audiences would probably support him in another action piece. But he may be more of a Clint Eastwood, and continue to project intimidation without lifting a finger. I think his career's as strong now as it's ever been for him, including 1993's Schindler's List. Is there anyone else that's been in as many movies this year alone? The Grey, Wrath of the Titans, Battleship, a cameo in The Dark Knight Rises, and now Taken 2. I din't think audiences are getting tired of him, and I'd guess that any faults they find with those movies, they're not blaming on him. I think the only reason we might see the last of Neeson as an action star is if he finds this pace too taxing.
Edwin Davies: As i alluded to in the previous question, I think that Neeson's at a stage in his career where his presence can help elevate a film do better than it might have otherwise - cast Sam Worthington as the lead in The Grey or Unknown and neither film would have made more than $30 million - but that he definitely has a ceiling outside of the Taken franchise (and i think we can be fairly confident that this is a franchise now with at least one more film left in it, maybe two if people don't come away from a wildly inferior sequel with too much resentment). If we remove films where he is there to fill out the cast (Clash/Wrath of the Titans, Battleship, Dark Knight Rises, The Next Three Days) then that range is $50 and 70 million. That's not bad, but I think it speaks volumes about the disconnect between Liam Neeson's draw as a lead and the success of the Taken films. His next two films are thrillers in the vein of what he's been doing over the last few years, and if they do better than his average so far then I think it's safe to assume that he is a big draw outside of Taken. My suspicion, though, is that this is probably going to be the pinnacle of his career as an action star, and that we're going to see diminishing returns for the next Taken film or two, whilst his non-Taken films will probably chug along and make more or less the same amount as the ones before them did.
Jason Barney: There was just something about the first Taken film which brought out the respect of movie fans. Part of it was Neeson's acting, I think, in which he was able to portray a character totally in control of violent and chaotic situations. There was seriousness in his eyes and understanding in his voice which drew us all in. I don't think his status as an action star has been hurt at all, even if this film is not getting great reviews. In fact, I see some parallel here between this series and what the Bourne film's were able to do. Nobody would ever complain about the violence in the Bourne films as excessive or unnecessary, because we were all so into the character of Jason Bourne. I see something very along those lines here. Neeson's ability to get into the character has a lot to do with it.
David Mumpower: As Edwin aptly stated, Unknown and The Grey reinforce the idea that Neeson as a box office draw is peaking right now. Do I believe this trend will continue? Well, I recall the discussion our group had when Gran Torino was still tearing up the box office. We were convinced that Clint Eastwood was anomalous and that each of his releases would continue to do very well. Since then, he has descended to acceptable numbers as opposed to the astonishing ones from the Million Dollar Baby era. Neeson will probably experience the same fate because there are also projects he has accepted that diminish consumer trust in him. Taking a paycheck for Wrath of the Titans, The A-Team and Battleship is great for his bank account. Starring in enough of those films combined with the audience-disappointing Taken 2 is a problem. If Neeson is more discerning in the future, I will answer yes. If not, he is still the rare actor who can claim equally phenomenal roles in Schindler's List, Love Actually and Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. He's going to anchor projects as long as he wants, just as was the case with Sean Connery as Max noted. The key issue is whether these are action films. I believe that his shelf life in such titles is shorter than everyone else here, apparently. I doubt he is still an action lead in 2016.
Kim Hollis: While I think audiences are fine with him as an action lead, I get the feeling (while watching a couple of his publicity appearances for Taken 2) that he's weary of these sorts of projects. Yes, he has a couple coming up yet, but I believe that we're going to see him move back toward prestige type roles in the future. He's an excellent advocate for his own product (he's funny, eloquent and looks fantastic), but I just sense a waning enthusiasm in him for this sort of stuff.