When will Liam Neeson go back to consistently making awards contenders?

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Like many of you, I was pretty surprised and more than a little bit delighted when Liam Neeson made the next act in his illustrious career an action packed one. No one expected Taken to be a hit, or as satisfyingly enjoyable as it was, but it signaled a new trajectory for Neeson. That’s been all well and good, but one thing that it’s cost us is his performances in Oscar fare. Since Taken, Neeson has more or less dropped off of the Academy’s radar, with only one upcoming project hopefully set to return him to prestige territory. I like when he kicks ass, like he does in Friday’s new release Run All Night, but I prefer it when he contends for awards.

Neeson is a very strong dramatic actor and certainly very solid as an action hero, but it’s the former where he’s really been able to shine. Think of the performances that you truly remember him for…they’re dramas, not action movies, right? Hell, I’d even argue that something like Love Actually makes better use of Neeson. Again, this isn’t to say that I don’t like when he saves the day, because I do, especially in the first Taken and the action/drama hybrid The Grey, but those other action flicks are a bit more touch and go, quality wise. His dramas (and occasional comedies) have been traditionally more reliable.

For example, these are the action movies he’s done since the first Taken came out, nearly a decade ago: Clash of the Titans, The A-Team, The Next Three Days, Unknown, The Grey, Wrath of the Titans, Battleship, Taken 2, Non-Stop, A Walk Among the Tombstones, Taken 3, and this weekend’s Run All Night. Unless you count his cameo in The Dark Knight Rises, The Grey is really the only one of undisputed quality in that lot. Even when it comes to comedies, at least he has The Lego Movie to fall back on, even if A Million Ways to Die in the West underwhelmed many.

If you look at his dramas though, Neeson has an Academy Award nomination and a trio of Golden Globe nominations to his credit, which should say something. Those nods came for Schindler’s List (also Oscar nominated), Kinsey, and Michael Collins. You could also claim that he’s been in play more than once for other films (Gangs of New York, as one example), but Schindler’s List especially shows just what he’s capable of when he goes the high drama route. Particularly when he’s with a top notch filmmaker like Steven Spielberg, he can really blow you away. He was once rumored to play Abraham Lincoln in Spielberg’s biopic Lincoln, but while that never happened, he does have an upcoming player potentially with another Martin Scorsese collaboration.

In 2016, he actually returns to awards contention, hoping to score his second nom with Scorsese’s passion project Silence. He’s been tipped early as a possible winner when this one comes around, though later this year he also has the drama A Monster Calls hitting to, so there’s a possibility there. Ted 2 is on the horizon later on in 2015 as well, so he’s hardly turning over a new leaf. Neeson seems to be going back towards drama though, and that’s a good thing.

While I don’t think he’s done with action, Neeson’s role in tomorrow’s Run All Night could be one of the final times he kicks ass, especially if either A Monster Calls or Silence really gets him some strong critical acclaim. He deserves it, so maybe at least he’ll start mixing it up more. He’s a top notch talent, so I’m hoping he fights for awards more often in the future, as opposed to just fighting bad guys…

Stay tuned to see if Neeson contends for Academy Awards again in the next year or two!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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