Why do they keep pestering this man?
Poor Bryan Mills, the retired CIA agent played by Liam Neeson in the Taken film franchise, comes under the gun yet again when the third installment of the action series hits screens Jan. 9. This time, he’s the hunted prey after he’s framed for the murder of someone close to him.
“I have to go on the run, I’ll put it that way, from the not-so-lawful types and the lawful authorities,” says Neeson, choosing his words carefully. “Bryan Mills served his country faithfully, but now even they are after him. They must not like me.”
A new generation of fans certainly likes the 62-year-old Irish actor in action roles.
“This time, no more traveling,” says Neeson. “If my daughter was ‘taken’ again on a trip, Bryan Mills would have to be certifiably locked up for bad parenting.”
Neeson makes no bones about the fact that his character fights dirty to make up for his age. During one fight sequence, Mills even commandeers a defibrillator to take out foes.
“Bryan Mills wants to fight quick, using the dirtiest moves possible to finish,” he says. “It’s not like, ‘Put your fists up, fellow!’ Why fight like that when you can kick someone in the kneecap and be done with it?”
The 6-foot-4 former amateur boxer makes clear he enjoys the hand-to-hand screen combat. But he leaves the falls for his longtime stunt coordinator. Neeson throws convincing blows, has a killer phone voice (his “I have a very particular set of skills” line from the first film is a classic) and brings an earnest believability to the role.
“People are attracted to quiet heroes,” says Forest Whitaker, who joins the franchise as a pursuing law enforcement agent. “Liam’s presence has that. He gives people a sense of comfort and security. And he’s an excellent actor.”
Through the deadly cat-and-mouse game, the two never directly battle each other, much to Whitaker’s disappointment. “There’s no big fight between us, which I would have loved,” Whitaker says. “That will have to wait until Taken 4.”
That does not seem likely. Neeson figures the franchise will close out with this third installment, to be called Tak3n. “It’s a rollicking good story,” he says. “But I think this is the end.”
But his action career can live on: A Walk Among the Tombstones opened this weekend and February’s Non-Stop made $91 million in its February opening.
“If I feel audiences saying, ‘Come on, he’s 62, enough is enough,’ I’m very sensitive to that and if I pick up that vibe it will all stop. And I’ll start playing dads or grandfathers,” says Neeson. “But I keep myself pretty fit and my knees are still great. And it’s fun.”