Liam Neeson is a talented, Oscar-winning actor, so it may be tempting to believe, just because he relentlessly dominates the weak and foolish in cinema, that he is not actually a true badass in real life. But don't you believe it. Did you know that, before becoming a professional actor, Neeson was an amateur boxer, and operated a forklift at the Guinness brewery? And that he hand-raised an entire wolf pack singlehandedly and trained them to become his personal army of the night? Also, that I probably made that last one up?Regardless, it wouldn't even be possible to play this many completely badass characters in this wide array of scenarios without some of that same intensity bleeding its way into the man's own personality. That's my theory, anyway...
Neeson's calm, cold delivery of the central monologue from the film "Taken" - in which he informs his unlucky adversary about his "particular set of skills" - has rightly taken its place atop the pantheon of Liam Neeson Asskickery. Despite major roles in action films up until this point, it was really "Taken" that confirmed for the world just how poor an idea it was to get on a Neeson character's bad side. Let's just put it this way...A reasonable alternative title would have been "Throat Punch: The Movie."
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As he does in so many films, in the Christopher Nolan "Batman" series, Neeson takes on the role of the hardened but caring instructor, who guides a protege on the path to becoming a warrior. Here, as Henri Ducard, he teaches young, naive Bruce Wayne about the importance of controlling his emotions and remaining aware of his surroundings. (And bundling up when swordfighting on a mountainside!)
Little does Wayne know that the Ducard, man he has grown to respect and admire, would turn out to...Do we need a spoiler warning? This movie came out in 2005...Fine.
SPOILERWould turn out to unleash a toxin into the Gotham water supply that's later vaporized by some kind of electromagnetic pulse bomb. Something like that. Maybe I need to rewatch this one.
#21 on The Best Movies of the '00ssee more on Batman Begins
Aside from "Taken," probably the cinema's most clear example of the dangers of upsetting Liam Neeson. As the deformed, supernaturally-strong anti-hero Darkman, Neeson musters all of his deep, inner, cartoonishly over-the-top rage. (It is, after all, a Sam Raimi movie.) Said rage is soon enough misdirected, as it so often is, against a corrupt carny, with disastrous, possibly wince-inducing results. You've been warned. (Though, granted, you probably watched the clip already. Sorry!)
#46 on The Best Movies of 1990see more on Darkman
Neeson's powerful, brief turn as Priest Vallon opens Martin Scorsese's epic tale of street violence in Civil War-era New York, and sets the tone for the rest of the film.Yes, yes, I know, you hate Cameron Diaz's performance as hustler Jenny Everdeane, and feel the need to bring it up every time someone mentions this movie. Understood. But what works about "Gangs" REALLY works, and if it's been a while since you've seen it, consider revisiting the movie. It's not many films that feature Daniel Day-Lewis throwing knives, Brendon Gleeson bashing people's heads in with a club AND John C. Reilly as a crooked cop.
#25 on The Best Movies of the '00ssee more on Gangs of New York