Liam Neeson is a different kind of hero in “Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House”

Ever since Liam Neeson began kicking ass with the Taken franchise, he has been seen as an unusual action hero. A number of genre efforts (plus sequels to Taken) later, and Neeson kicks ass much more these days than anything else. This week, however, Neeson has a vehicle to display his acting range in with Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House. This biopic says it all in the title, as Neeson is getting to play a baity historical figure at a time where this particular story is as prescient as ever. It’s a welcome return to this sort of material for Neeson, who too often isn’t able to show how wonderful of an actor he really is.

This film is a biopic of, believe it or not, Mark Felt (Neeson). Felt was an FBI agent who would become better known as Deep Throat, the informant who helped journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward blow the lid off of the Watergate scandal in 1974. At the time, Felt was the Bureau’s Associate Director, but as shady dealings in the Nixon Administration go on around him, he can’t keep silent. While crusading against corruption at work, he also his runaway daughter Joan (Maika Monroe), as well as his wife Audrey (Diane Lane). Despite warnings to the contrary, Felt pursues justice. History dictates how this one will turn out, obviously. Peter Landsman writes (adapting Felt’s book) and directs here, while the supporting cast includes Ike Barinholtz, Marton Csokas, Tony Goldwyn, Bruce Greenwood, Michael C. Hall, Brian d’Arcy James, Josh Lucas, Eddie Marsan, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Julian Morris, Tom Sizemore, Kate Walsh, Noah Wyle, and more. Cinematography is by Adam Kimmel, while Daniel Pemberton provides the score.

Despite being as timely a picture as possible, no one has really sung this one’s praises as anything to write home about. It seems to consistently go this way for Landsman, who is a frustrating filmmaker. Between this, Concussion, and Parkland, he always comes up with phenomenal projects, ones that should scream Academy Award attention. Yet, they always underwhelm. At least here Neeson isn’t just doing Taken all over again. For that, we can thank him. It’s just a shame that a Felt biopic is going to get completely forgotten about before long. The story deserved better treatment, that’s for sure. Alas.

Better reviews would have made Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House a true Oscar contender. Still, a campaign might be launched for Neeson, even if it’s a long shot. Anything else seems totally out of the question now. For what it’s worth, here are Neeson’s ten best performances to date, in my humble opinion:

10. Taken
9. Gangs of New York
8. A Monster Calls
7. Chloe
6. Batman Begins
5. Silence
4. Love Actually
3. Kinsey
2. The Grey
1. Schindler’s List

Honorable Mention: Ethan Frome, Husbands and Wives, Michael Collins, Rob Roy, Seraphim Falls, and Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

On Friday, Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House hits theaters and hopes to draw in Neeson fans for something a bit more serious. Landsman has yet to fire on all cylinders, with Concussion probably coming the closest, so expectations should be kept in check. Still, if you’re a history buff or big on Neeson’s quieter work, there’s something here for you. Hopefully, if nothing else, it pushes Neeson to keep doing more of this sort of thing. With him recently stating his action hero days are basically over, that might be the likely outcome too. Stay tuned there to see…

Be sure to check out Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, in theaters this weekend!

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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