Old people get no respect. Especially in Hollywood action movies where most characters over the age of fifty are just there to tell the hot young lead that they are way out of line! Then the hot young lead makes them look like a fool. Then the older person has to say, “Oh, I’m so sorry Mr. or Ms. Hot Young Lead, I was stupid to doubt you, please allow me to grovel at your infinitely wise and cool feet!” Well, I’m sick of it. People over 50 have had a significantly longer amount of time to practice espionage, grappling, fighting, shooting, driving, ANY NUMBER of the traits needed to be a kick-ass action hero. In that spirit, here are actors of a certain age who still managed to tear everyone up.
Liam Neeson (56 Years Old) – Taken
Liam Neeson’s work in Taken not only revitalized his whole career, it reignited the entire Old-Guy-with-a-Gun genre. When the film pulled in close to a billion dollars, studios started greenlighting everything. Even Michael Caine got in on the action It’s almost as if there are billions of Dad’s out there who still believe they could be a special forces agent and use these films to vicariously live that fantasy.
And wow, is Taken the ultimate dad fantasy. Liam Neeson kills a total of 35 people on the way to rescuing his daughter. He reportedly wasn’t optimistic about the success of the film, but took the role because it was something different and there is nothing wrong with spending four months in Paris. We are all lucky he did, because his darling Northern Irish accent and otherworldly intensity elevates the quality of the film from pretty good blockbuster to instant classic. It’s no wonder the telephone scene has been a mainstay of pop culture since its release. The delivery of the dialogue is iconic.
To prepare for the film, Neeson learned karate. He also underwent weapons training with former Special Air Service soldier Mick Gould. Just as a final note of kick-assery, Neeson performed many of his own stunts during filming; something I guarantee was not expected of him. In fact, they probably asked him not to attempt the stunts, but sometimes you just can’t stop an old man on a mission.
Jackie Chan (50 Years Old) – New Police Story
Here at Charge!, we love Jackie Chan. He’s funny, charismatic and simply put one of the greatest stunt martial artists of all times. Since the beginning, there has never been anything too dangerous for in to attempt for the sake of cinema. When we say still kick ass, we’re talking Chan. For over 30 years, this man has been defying death on every film set he touches.
And he just won’t quit. For those who don’t know, Police Story was a popular 1980’s Chinese franchise with insane stunts that solidified Chan’s star status and helped launch his American adventures. 20 years after the original, Jackie returned to the well to kick more ass. New Police Story has nothing to do with the other entries in the franchise, except that you are watching a man kick, punch, jump, and stunt in a way 99.99% of people never could. Watching these fight scenes, it doesn’t look like Chan has lost any speed or strength. The reboot received wide-spread critical acclaim. It’s in Chinese, but it’s the kind of karate action film you could watch on mute and still enjoy just as much.
Harrison Ford (51 Years Old) – The Fugitive
Start to finish, The Fugitive is one of American cinema’s most airtight and enthralling action movies. It’s set up perfectly so you are rooting for both Harrison Ford and the US Marshall who is hot on his tail, played by a 47-year-old Tommy Lee Jones. Harrison Ford doesn’t shoot, punch, or stunt as hard as some of the other old timers on this list, but he keeps you on the edge of your seat. Desson Howe of The Washington Post said the film was “A juggernaut of exaggeration, momentum and thrills… ‘Fugitive’ is pure energy.” Studios who think it takes youth to create “energy”, take note.
Speaking of antiques, the famous train sequence actually utilized (and crashed) a real-life train. I don’t want to get on my old man rant, but a lot of times with new movies I feel as though all of the CGI takes the stakes out of scenes. It doesn’t feel real, because it isn’t. They really crashed this train and Harrison Ford had to run from it in leg shackles. Reportedly, they only had one train, so they only got one take. Now, it’s a classic scene in cinema history and you can still visit the overturned train in North Carolina where it was filmed!
Clint Eastwood (62 Years Old) – Unforgiven
Clint Eastwood has been kicking ass and not saying too much about it since 1958, and he’s never been quite as viscerally intimidating as his turn as William Munny in Unforgiven. Earlier in his career, Eastwood played silent cold blood killers; as a spiritual succession, William Munny is an ex-killer haunted by his past. It’s a maturation of the character that somehow makes him scarier, especially behind his signature grizzled skin and icy stare. Eastwood plays haunted well. He really doesn’t have to say much to give the impression you shouldn’t mess with him.
Under Eastwood’s direction, and an incredible performance by Gene Hackman, Unforgiven won the Academy Award for Best Picture. It has everything you want in a western, beautiful landscapes, blurred lines between “good guys” and “bad guys” and an against all odds shoot-out. This climactic scene will hopefully show all the whipper-snappers out there that sometimes the most kick ass thing you can do is move your mouth as little as possible.