My review of Run All Night, the new Liam Neeson action movie, is more of a review of Liam Neeson and the ways in which he has influenced the genre. Here's how it starts:
Over the past seven years, Liam Neeson has helped redefine the action movie. With his boxer's features and his sandpaper voice, Mr. Neeson, now 62, has long been known for his intense performances.
Since the unexpected success of "Taken" in 2008, which featured him as a growling, brutal enforcer out to rescue his kidnapped daughter, Mr. Neeson has earned a place as one of Hollywood's top-flight action stars. In doing so, he has reshaped the action movie around his character, strengths and particular interests.
Thanks in part to his influence, action films — especially those produced on modest budgets and released outside of the summer movie season — have become darker, gruffer, more intense and even, in some ways, more elderly. They are movies about guns and violence, of course, and they tend to feature plenty of action.
But they are also movies suffused with sadness, loss and regret, as well as an acute sense of the passage of time.
"Run All Night" is the latest example. Although it is not the best of Mr. Neeson's recent entries into the action canon, it may be the most representative.
Read the complete review in The Washington Times.
One additional point that didn't make my review: I think this is in some ways just how action movies, especially the ones that aren't special effects driven fantasies, work.
The genre has long been driven by its stars—everyone from Steve McQueen to Clint Eastwood to Arnold Schwarzenegger to Slyvester Stallone and Bruce Willis—and the genre has always reshaped and remade itself, at least to some extent, around the character and personality of those stars. Bill Simmons rehearses some of the relevant genre history here in this great piece ranking the dominant action heroes for each year going back to 1973.
Thing is, there wasn't really an obvious Action Movie Lead for much of the 00s; the Bourne films were maybe the most infuential films during that time, but Matt Damon didn't make that much of an impact. Neeson's recent dominance is in some ways, then, a return to form for the middle-budget action film.