Liam Neeson has a very particular set of skills. Skills he has acquired over a long career. Skills that make him a box office titan, and quite possibly the defining action hero of the past decade. To dip into his dossier is to browse the badass hall of fame, with roles ranging from Greek god to Jedi master to amnesia-prone assassin. And when Taken 2, which could really use a good tag line like "Taken Again" or "Still Taken," arrives in theaters next week, audiences will no doubt be in store for another 90 minutes of captivating carnage.
Even at 60 years old, Neeson still manages to have cross-generational appeal, and makes a far more believable action hero than puerile pretty boys like Shia LeBeouf or Liam Hemsworth, whose acting is an amalgamation of upper lip peach fuzz and dour glowers. If Neeson's raw manliness were measured in pints of Irish stout -- appropriate because he formerly worked as a forklift driver in a Guinness factory -- the sheer volume of liquid would rival the Black Sea. Single-handedly, he could expend any one of the geriatric Expendables. In fact, I'm prone to believe that in a fair fight, the only man with the chops to beat Liam Neeson is Liam Neeson.
Which is why I conceived a hypothetical death match between Neeson's most commanding characters. Below is a bracket, in which characters are seeded by the year their films debuted. Let the testosterone-taut melee begin.
Ottway vs. Hannibal
When it comes to cunning, there's no doubt that The A-Team's Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith has a certain swagger. But they were called the A-TEAM for a reason, and in a one-on-one fight, clever costumes and sophisticated schemes would come in little use against the fearless survivalist Ottway. With mini booze bottle blades protruding from his knuckles, The Grey's Ottway sits at the intersection of MacGyver and Wolverine. In this match, I'll take the guy who makes his living shooting wolves with a sniper rifle. Ottway wins.
Zeus vs. Bryan Mills
Liam Neeson as a lightening bolt-donning deity may be theoretically awesome, but this Clash of the Titans iteration of Zeus is more flashy façade than fire and brimstone. In the sequel, Wrath of the Titans, this frail Father even finds himself abducted by his brother Hades. Taken's Bryan Mills, as a man who knows the value of sparse words and swift kicks to the spleen, would never stand for that. And really, after single-handedly snuffing out an entire sex-trafficking operation, how hard could it be for him to impair one flimsy immortal? Mills wins.
Aslan vs. Ra's Al Ghul
The Vegas odds may be on Aslan -- the freakishly enormous talking feline from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But at heart, this lion is just an idealistic pussycat. He'd likely sit back and take a throwing star to the snout as some form of martyrdom. Batman Begins' Al Ghul has his own ideals, but they trend more toward demolition of the Gotham metro area. Let's not forget that Al Ghul will be throwing smoke bombs -- a ninja staple -- which are less than feline friendly, as my own tabby can attest after spending one too many 4ths of July in fireworks range. Al Ghul wins.
Qui Gon Jinn vs. Oskar Schindler
If wars were won with perfect hair, then Qui Gon might have dismantled the Sith all by himself in The Phantom Menace. Unfortunately, shampoo and conditioner have no such properties, even when applied to the follicles of a Jedi. Schindler's List namesake Oskar Schindler, on the other hand, outwitted Nazis, who are far more fearsome foes than the tribal lizard look-alike that halved Qui Gon in the Star Wars prequel. Qui Gon may have a lightsaber, but I wouldn't put it past Schindler to charm the tunic right off of this Jedi master. Regardless, Qui Gon should be summarily slaughtered for allowing Jar Jar Binks, nails-on-a-chalkboard incarnate, to roam the galaxy. In an upset, Schindler wins.
Ottway vs. Bryan Mills
One man lost his wife, the other his daughter. One man fights wolves, the other Eastern Europeans. I think this comes down to a pure battle of will, and with that in mind, Mills holds the advantage. Ottway has less to live for, and considering his mantra -- Once more into the fray, into the last good fight I'll ever know, live and die on this day -- seems to have no real fear of death. Mills is undoubtedly capable of providing that good fight. Mills wins.
Ra's Al Ghul vs Oskar Schindler
Schindler's strength is slick speech, but to the leader of the League of Shadows, words are wind. Beating down playboy businessmen is familiar territory to Al Ghul (see Bruce Wayne, bow staff). A savvy strategist, Schindler would likely try to negotiate a truce before sustaining serious injury. Unfortunately for him, Al Ghul would show no mercy. Al Ghul wins.
Bryan Mills vs Ra's Al Ghul
Two men. Fathers. Martial arts masters. It's possible -- probable even -- that the pure gravity of this epic battle would act as a harbinger for the apocalypse. Volcanoes would erupt, mountains would crumble, entire cities would shatter -- including Gotham, to the delight of Al Ghul -- and the moon would explode. Then, when all is said and done, when the ash settles in a layer across the land like new fallen snow on a fresh grave, one man would stand alone. In one hand, his daughter. In the other, the head of Ra's Al Ghul. Bryan Mills FTW.