SCHINDLER’S FISTS Liam Neeson as action hero byJames Wolcott
Wham! Bam! Thank You, Liam!
Since Taken, Liam Neeson has morphed from much-admired actor to pulp-movie badass. As his body count rises, Neeson’s hulking presence and anchoring calm make him the surprise successor to another vengeful giant, John Wayne.
SCHINDLER’S FISTS Liam Neeson comes to the rescue, again and again.
TFROM VANITY FAIR
To look heroic on-screen, height is a definite plus. A tall silhouette on the horizon, a hulking presence in the doorway, a set of broad shoulders capable of carrying an entire movie across the raging rapids—stature is a statement unto itself that big things are at stake. Hollywood can jack up the illusion of looming presence for a vertically impaired star—add lifts to his shoes, stand him on boxes, shoot from low angles, surround him with hobbits and garden gnomes—but an action stud who fills the camera frame from top to bottom unassisted is a proclamation of physical prowess: a force of nature. Let’s climb the ladder and picture: Lee Marvin in his silver-gray sharkskin suit, all six feet two of him, bashing everything in view to retrieve his ill-gotten loot in Point Blank. Daniel Day-Lewis, also six feet two, bursting from the forest in The Last of the Mohicans and bearing the fate of the Republic on his bony frame in Lincoln. Gary Cooper, six feet three, taking that fateful stroll as the noble marshal of that chicken town in High Noon. And the man who won the American West and World War II while walking pigeon-toed across hot sand, John Wayne, a shambling, meaty monument of a man at six feet four. The unlikely heir to the Duke’s royal shitkickers today is Liam Neeson, who, after a long, upward-trending career as a Much-Admired Actor, suddenly quantum-leapt into a global authority figure in the art of cinematic smackdown, twisting bad guys’ heads as if they were bottle caps. He, too, is six feet four, a mighty tree in the autumn of life.
A former forklift operator in his native Ireland, Neeson first came to the swooning attention of swinging Americans as the I.R.A. revolutionary shopping for Stinger missiles in Season Three ofMiami Vice—a terrorist, aye, but with a smooth-cheeked, wistful quality that set him apart from the usual smarmballs taunting Crockett and Tubbs with their oily imprecations. On-screen, even in his stalwart roles in Excalibur, Rob Roy, Michael Collins, Ethan Frome, and Schindler’s List(what a roll call!), Neeson casts the cloud of a poetic brooder, an introspective slab of decency who has to be roused into action, handed the baton of history
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