The line I want to lay on Liam Neeson is that he went from being this well-respected, classy sort of actor to being a guy who spends entire movies just punching dudes. Remember that Channing Tatum movie Fighting? That movie should have been a Liam Neeson movie.
But (and PS: Fighting is actually a pretty good movie: Tatum’s best!) after looking over Neeson’s filmography, it becomes pretty obvious that while yeah, Neeson has been in his share of “good” movies (Michael Collins, Rob Roy), most of his work has been in stuff like Taken and Clash of the Titans, where he spends a good deal of time beating people, and lots of shit blows up.
Which is why I was so fired up to see The Grey, a movie—based on what I assumed from the trailer—where Liam Neeson spends 90 minutes fighting a pack of wolves. This is gonna be the best, dumbest shit of all time I thought to myself.
And it was! Well, not entirely. The Grey was pretty dumb, but it was also kind of weirdly engaging, and ultimately kind of frustrating, because there was the definite seed of something that could have been good, but that goodness was hamstrung by the dumbness. It was a movie that wanted to be deep and meaningful, all about the inscrutable cruelty and indifference of God, but it all too often went about it in a really clumsy and obvious way.
Still, Neeson is a really good and likeable actor, and his performance—especially near the end, where, in a move that seems lifted directly from Conan The Barbarian, Neeson, after raging at the sky and asking God for help, sighs and says “fuck it, I’ll do it myself”—is angry and ragged and riveting, as is The Grey when, at its intermittent best, it works.