Yesterday, the entertainment world was rocked by Liam Neeson’s statement that he will likely be retiring from action movies in two years at the age of 64. Neeson’s action movies of have become a box office staple during the dead winter months, as well as an adequately distracting bridge between summer movie season and Oscar-bait season. Word is that studio heads are already in a panic as Liam Neeson action movies account for 15% of the annual global box office. Of course Ed Harris will have the villain roles under lock for the next 30 years, but there’s a hero-sized void that’s going to need to be filled. The power vacuum we’re going to see as a result of Neeson’s absence will be unprecedented. No doubt, names like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, and JCVD will make power plays to reclaim their old positions. A number of wrestlers will throw themselves in the ring but they’ll likely just be casualties in the end, their bodies used as mortar in the service of a new empire. Toss in a recent upstart like The Gunman‘s Sean Penn and a loose cannon like Nic Cage and Hollywood’s going to have a blood bath on their hands. You can forget about youngins like Kellan Lutz or Liam Hemsworth. Action is an old man’s game and if we’re going to have any semblance of order we’re going need someone with experience, someone who stares at death in the eye and growls, “Not yet, you sonnaofbitch. Not yet.” We’re going to need someone like:
5. Tommy Lee Jones (68)
Jones is the most obvious successor to Neeson. As a fellow Oscar Nominee, Jones is capable of the same caliber of performances as Neeson, which also means he’ll have no problem phoning it in when the time comes. He’s proven time and time again that he can deliver the necessary gravitas to pose an intimidating threat without even uttering a word (remember him at 2013’s Golden Globes Ceremony? Chills). He’s also dabbled a fair share within the action genre. If anyone can lead a Taken reboot it’s Jones. Sure, he’ll probably hate every second of it but he’ll look awesome doing it.
4. Helen Mirren (69)
Mirren is a damn fine, classy dame who also has a great sense of humor. She may have won an Academy Award for Best Actress in 2006 but that didn’t stop her from taking a role in the Bruce Willis action movie RED and its sequel. But Mirren deserves to be more than a supporting character. Action films not directed by James Cameron are notoriously known for their weak female characters. Send Mirren, armed with two katanas, into any goon filled warehouse and watch her go to work. Out of any name on the list, Mirren’s action movies would be the most entertaining.
3. Gene Hackman (85)
If there’s anything that can pull Gene Hackman out of retirement, it’s an action franchise. Has there ever been an actor who can so easily move between unassuming and threatening? Whether he’s playing the protagonist or villain, Hackman always packs a punch with his performances, and it’s time for him to take that skill literally. Sure he’s getting up there in age and we can’t expect him do the kind of hand-to-hand action sequences we see Neeson perform, but I think The French Connection III: Rumble in Brooklyn sounds right up his alley.
2. Sidney Poitier (88)
Outside of Blaxploitation films, the action genre has always been lacking in black actors. Who better to right that wrong than the man who was the first black to win an Academy Award for Best Actor? Poitier has received some of highest honors possible for anyone to achieve (including the Presidential Medal of Freedom), but has he taken a dive out of a helicopter with guns blazing? I don’t think so. Have him team up with Denzel Washington, fall in love with Pam Grier, take down a villain played by Samuel L. Jackson, and let the cash flow in.
1. Kirk Douglas (98)
For years we’ve watched Michael Douglas own the spotlight while his father has been relegated to the realm of classic old Hollywood. Well it’s time Kirk Douglas returned to the throne. When it comes to action movies, age has proven to be irrelevant and at 98, Douglas is just reaching his prime. The guy has been fighting off rumors of his death for the past decade. If we’re going to be real about this, Spartacus was kid stuff, it’s time for Douglas to get modern. I say, strap some brass knuckles on those wizened hands, arm him with a nail studded baseball bat and let him loose in the middle of a newly-minted penal colony. That’s right folks, daddy’s back and he came to play. Now come and take your medicine.