Liam Neeson’s ‘Non-Stop’ demonstrates the Rise of the Ageing Action Hero

Tomorrow sees Liam Neeson’s return as yet another antique action hero in Non-Stop [1], the story of an air marshall whose passenger flight is held hostage to the tune of $150m. Since 2008 hit Taken reminded audiences that the older gent can still kick ass and hold his own at the box office, Neeson, 61, has starred in a spate of action flicks including The A-Team, Unknown and Taken 2, and is showing no signs of slowing, with Taken 3 already announced [2] and lead roles in upcoming action thrillers A Walk Among The Tombstones (fall 2014) and Run All Night (2015). Whilst Neeson initially dismissed the possibility of reprising his character, Bryan Mills, in a third Taken movie, joking, “that’s just bad parenting,” he was reportedly enticed back to the role with a handsome $20 million cheque [3]. Nice work if you can get it, but the real question is: why can he get it? Why is Hollywood paying out sums of that scale for action stars in their twilight years? One thing is clear, Neeson is far from the only oldie picking up the gun; there are plenty of other stars clamouring to put the silver back in silverscreen…

Arnold Schwarzenegger, or affectionately, “Arnie”, 66, exploded back in to cinemas after his political hiatus in action ensemble blow-ups, The Expendables and The Expendables 2. He subsequently manned the minigun in The Last Stand and then again reunited with Sylvester Stallone, 67, for more high-octane action in last year’s Escape Plan. Not to be left out, The Expendables 3 will see Harrison Ford, 71, joining the current posse alongside Mel Gibson, 58, who, despite leading the excellent and criminally underrated prison thiller, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, a few years ago, isn’t exactly bankable these days. (In fact, given his chequered and controversial past, for many it’s a mystery his career has even survived this long. I, for one, thought The Beaver was his death knell.)

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A rant of inequality.

Here’s a comment I posted on First Showing, in response to an infuriating remark by a reader known only as…Ives. The article was about Mel Gibson’s recent departure from his agency, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, and the post that riled me declared:

I can’t believe people are defending him. He may have been a decent person in the past (i don’t know), but now he is a drunk, abusive lowlife and doesn’t deserve any respect. Just because he is (or was) talented, people should not look past who he really is. Stop giving celebrities special treatment.

I suspect this is a view shared by a number of people, so here’s my comeback. The case of Ives vs. Alien, 2010.

@Ives – it’s not giving ‘celebrities special treatment’, it’s giving artists and geniuses special treatment, and they should be, because the fact is, without those people, as despicable as they can be at times, there is no point to anything. They give us highs and they give us lows, but try and imagine a life without crazy and eccentric musicians, actors, artists etc. Hell, some of the greatest legends were absolute scum, but we need them to give this life some context. So how about instead of stopping ‘special treatment’, you stop bunging us all together in a mash up of personalities and characters that should all be treated the same, and recognise that the simple fact is, we’re not the same, we shouldn’t be treated the same, and Mel Gibson should not be dropped from his agents and colleagues like an empty bottle as soon as he’s lost his clean reputation and is a threat to theirs.

Don’t get me wrong, I despise celeb culture as much as the next respectable human being, but there’s a fine line that you’re not observing.