What in the world is Liamnesia? Well, if you combine Irish actor Liam Neeson with his recent penchant for becoming an action hero, then it turns out that I can't really remember what he was like before. Hence, the amnesia part.
Recently, I watched him in the utterly-forgettable Non-Stop, a rote thriller with a bad title and a good, wasted cast. Neeson plays a down on his luck Air Marshall who gets entangled on a "hijacked" flight from the U.S. To Europe. Included on the plane are the oldest sister from Downton Abbey, the state politician Kevin Spacey murders on House Of Cards, and, of all people, Julianne Moore. All are quality actors in disposable parts.
But most disposable of all Liam Neeson himself. The unlikeliest of action heroes in this buff age, Neeson does not project the super-strong, in shape hero. He doesn't show muscles. He doesn't ever remove bulky clothing. He's tortured and alcoholic and cliched. And this role is but a spin off of his reluctant father with a special set of skills from the Taken franchise.
The problem is that this is what he has become, and when an actor retreats into these branded, bland action roles, his or her previous body of work dissipates. It is as if a serious literary figure started writing drivel. It's pretty hard to come back that.
Schindler's List is a hazy memory. Love, Actually feels like it was mailed in. And, honestly, without checking IMDB, I can't remember else about the man's roles.
The same thing happened with Nicholas Cage. When he won the Academy Award for Leaving Las Vegas, he had some interesting parts on his resume--Birdy, Moonstruck, among others. Since that award, now years and years ago, he ain't done shit; in fact, he's done a whole lot worse than shit.
Tom Cruise, too. I know the man has his detractors for his personal life, and I share the disdain for Scientology and false marriages, but the fact remains that the man has a great screen presence. But if all he does is action, even if it is pretty good stuff like Edge Of Tomorrow. He can never again become the emotionally-vulnerable man who was Jerry MacGuire.
Critics like to point out, with full justification, that Hollywood is a graveyard of roles for older women who were once romantic leads. But what of the men? Perhaps they, too, are relegated to playing secondary roles to the special effects waiting to be added to the blue screen. Action hero or bust, eh? At least for many of them.
Clearly, there is good money in it. And longevity, in relative terms. But, my God, is there any satisfaction in pretending that you care about thin roles where your character makes dubious decisions to serve the action of the film, where the resolution depends on actions you really couldn't pull off at your age?
Cynics will say, that's the movies. That's what every single one of them does. Me, I'm not a cynic, at least not where appreciating people's best work is concerned. And so, I am saddened when I see someone whom I admire reduced to a money grab. Not that it doesn't happen everywhere every day.