Aging action heroes: Who still rocks and who needs a rocking chair

Steve Tilley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:12 PM ET

Liam Neeson has a very particular set of skills. Skills he has acquired over a very long career.

It’s these skills that allow us to believe a 61-year-old man can be a bona fide action hero, whether he’s murdering kidnappers to save his daughter (Taken), teaching martial arts to Bruce Wayne (Batman Begins) or blowing away skyjackers on an airliner (Non-Stop, in theatres next week.)

Maybe it’s because he’s a multiple Oscar nominee, or Irish, or just fit for his age, but Neeson makes it look easy. Not every actor in his 50s or 60s can convincingly kick ass. In 3 Days to Kill, opening today, 59-year-old Kevin Costner seems to be cribbing a page from Neeson’s playbook, but Costner’s own skills are getting a wee bit rusty.

Still, the parade of mature men in action roles shows no signs of slowing. Here’s a look at who’s doing it right, and who needs to think about trading the rocket launcher for a rocking chair.

Sylvester Stallone (age 67)

The guy made another Rocky movie at 59 and revisited Rambo at 61, and The Expendables franchise has shown he can still lead the action pack. We can believe him as a badass, even if a lot of it is the result of stunt work, CGI and careful editing.

Ready for retirement? Maybe after a couple more Expendables and another Rambo. Maybe not even then.

Bruce Willis (age 58)

Aside from the fact the Die Hard franchise has been set on fire and driven off a cliff, it’s getting harder to accept Willis as fists-a-flying, guns-a-blazing hero. Looper was just the right mix of age and action, but the RED movies, on the other hand… well, at least he looks young next to Helen Mirren and John Malkovich.

Ready for retirement? Not just yet, but it might be time to make sure his RRSPs are topped up.

Denzel Washington (age 59)

Whether he’s slicing bandits to ribbons in a post-apocalyptic wasteland (The Book of Eli), going on a mission of revenge (Man on Fire) or getting shot at by Mark Wahlberg (2 Guns), Washington seems to detour into an action-heavy role every third or fourth movie, despite the fact he’s pushing 60. Yet never once has he seemed like he’s past his prime.

Ready for retirement? That word isn’t even in the man’s vocabulary.

Arnold Schwarzenegger (age 66)

The man who gave us The Terminator, Predator, True Lies and many more action mainstays is starting to look and act his age. The “I’m too old for this s---”shtick in last year’s The Last Stand isn’t the kind of thing an actor can keep falling back on, and Arnie’s years in the California governor’s office might have made him a bit soft.

Ready for retirement? It could be time to hang up the chain gun and start looking for roles that emphasize acting chops over muscles. On second thought…

Tom Cruise (age 51)

Though he’s the youngest dude in this group, Cruise looks and acts like a man 15 years his junior – that really was him hanging off the side of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol – and he’s going to be leaping, sprinting and shooting his way through this year’s Edge of Tomorrow.

Ready for retirement? Hell no. Whatever’s in that guy’s protein shakes, we want some.

Harrison Ford (age 71)

We will always cherish Han Solo and Indiana Jones, but Ford hasn’t been a convincing action star since 1997’s Air Force One. Luckily he’s stopped trying, for the most part, but we still dread the idea of him donning the fedora for a fifth Indiana Jones movie. Even seeing old Han in Star Wars: Episode VII could be jarring.

Ready for retirement? Yes. It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.

Twitter: @stevetilley

steve.tilley@sunmedia.ca


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