In Fo­cus

Metro Canada (Toronto) - - Toronto - Richard crouse

Last year Liam Nee­son an­nounced his re­tire­ment from ac­tion films. “Guys I’m six­tyf—-five. Au­di­ences are even­tu­ally go­ing to go: ‘Come on!’” Then, just months later, he had a change of heart. “It’s not true, look at me! You’re talk­ing in the past tense. I’m go­ing to be do­ing ac­tion movies un­til they bury me in the ground. I’m un­re­tired.”

At an age when most ac­tion stars are stay­ing home soak­ing in vats of Voltaren, Nee­son con­tin­ues his tough guy ways in this week­end’s ac­tion-thriller The Com­muter. He plays an ev­ery­man caught up in a race-against-the-clock crim­i­nal con­spir­acy on his train trip home from work. Ex­pect a mix of blue-col­lar ac­tion and Hitch­cock’s Strangers on a Train.

It’s a per­fect com­pan­ion to the movies Nee­son has made since his ac­tion-man break­out role. It all be­gan with Taken in 2008. He played Brian Mills, a for­mer “pre­ven­ter” for the U.S. gov­ern­ment who con­tained volatile sit­u­a­tions be­fore they got out of con­tro

Now re­tired, his 17-yearold daugh­ter is kid­napped by a child slav­ery ring and he has only 96 hours to use his “par­tic­u­lar set of skills” to get her back.

He ad­mits to be­ing, “a tiny bit em­bar­rassed by it,” but his burly build and trade­marked steely glare made him an ac­tion star.

“Be­lieve it or not, I have even had Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger and Bruce Wil­lis call­ing my agent say­ing, ‘How do I get these scripts?’” he said on his 60th birthday.

Au­di­ences ate up his rough and tum­ble work. His habit of pay­ing the rent with chest­beat­ers like the Taken films, Bat­tle­ship, Un­known and The A-team led one ma­cho movie fan to post this on Face­book:

“After watch­ing the movie The Grey, I can only come to the (very log­i­cal) con­clu­sion that Liam Nee­son should be King of the Earth. Who’s bet­ter than Liam Nee­son? No­body. That’s who. No­body.”

But there was a time when a kin­der, gen­tler Nee­son graced the screen.

His first film, 1977s Pil­grim’s Progress, was so low bud­get he played sev­eral char­ac­ters. He’s cred­ited as the Evan­ge­list, a main char­ac­ter in John Bun­yan’s Chris­tian al­le­gory, but can also be seen sub­bing in as the cru­ci­fied Je­sus Christ.

It was an­other sup­port­ing role in a movie called Shin­ing Through that led to his break­through. In it he plays a Nazi party of­fi­cial op­po­site Michael Dou­glas. The per­for­mance so im­pressed Steven Spiel­berg he cast Nee­son as Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List, which turned him into an Os­car-nom­i­nated star.

He par­layed that fame into star­ring roles in pe­riod pieces like Rob Roy, Michael Collins (at the age of 43 Nee­son was 12 years older than the real-life Michael Collins when he died) and Les Misérables. Then come­dies Break­fast on Pluto and High Spir­its show­cased his more ami­able side.

High on the list of his mild-man­nered roles are two films with Laura Lin­ney. He’s worked with her so of­ten on stage and in the movies they joke they feel like “an old mar­ried cou­ple.” They’re part of the en­sem­ble cast of Love Ac­tu­ally and play hus­band and wife in Kin­sey, about Amer­ica’s lead­ing sex­ol­o­gist Al­fred Kin­sey.

Nee­son, it seems, can por­tray al­most any­thing on screen but claims he doesn’t give act­ing much thought. “I don’t an­a­lyze it too much. It’s like a dog smelling where it’s go­ing to do its toi­let in the morn­ing.”

Richard crouse is Metro’s movie colum­nist. He ap­pears ev­ery Fri­day.

Con­trib­uted

the com­muter is the per­fect com­pan­ion to the movies liam nee­son has made since his ac­tion-man break­out role in 2008’s taken.

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