Liam Neeson kicks butt in “Taken 2”. Source: Supplied
“I’M too old for this s***, ” Danny Glover famously complained in Lethal Weapon.
That was back in 1987. These days, the only way to be too old for any s*** is to be laid out in a pine box.
Age is just a number, at least when it comes to action heroes. Grab a juice box and take a hike, Taylor Lautner. The biggest names in action movies today are virtually identical to the 1980s and early 1990s. Sylvester Stallone is 67. Arnold Schwarzenegger is 66. Liam Neeson is 61. Wee pup Bruce Willis is 58.
He showed up earlier this year as a CIA handler in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and on Friday (in the US) he’s front and centre in 3 Days to Kill, as a spy who is blackmailed into taking one final mission in order to receive a cure for his terminal disease.
Co-writer/producer Adi Hasak says building the story around an older actor made sense.
“He’s a man who has been caught up in a cycle of violence, and he had to be old enough to look back on his life, ” Hasak says. “The cool thing with Neeson and Costner is that they’re playing their age. They’re wise, older men with the history of their lives on their faces.”
And 3 Days to Kill is just one of many new thrillers featuring the senior set. Bruce Willis will show up this summer in the sequel A Dame to Kill For, reprising his detective role from 2005’s Sin City. After that, he’s got three more action movies on the horizon for 2014.
Neeson plays an air marshal in Non-Stop, opening Feb. 28 in the US (Feb. 27 in Australia). Later this year, he’ll return in Taken 3 — presuming the writers can find someone else in his life to be kidnapped. (“Cousin Clarence, listen carefully. You’re going to be taken.”)
Schwarzenegger has the DEA actioner Sabotage March 28, and he will reprise his role as hard case Trench in August’s The Expendables 3. The third instalment in the meta-action franchise also stars Stallone, Harrison Ford (71), Dolph Lundgren (56), Wesley Snipes (51), Mel Gibson (58) and pretty much every action dude who can still lift a gun.
As the poster for Schwarzenegger’s sheriff shoot ’em-up The Last Stand proclaimed, “Retirement is for sissies.”
There is a precedent for veteran actors punching and kicking their way into old age, of course. John Wayne continued to play the strong, silent enforcer well into his 60s in Brannigan and Rooster Cogburn.
What’s unusual now is just how many ageing action stars there are — and how few younger actors are waiting in the wings.
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