It’s Starting to Feel Like All of Hollywood’s Action Heroes Are Old Guys

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Did you hear, Liam Neeson is out with a new movie.

It’s called The Commuter, and it’s definitely, absolutely, 100 percent not part of the Taken franchise, although, it looks very very much like it. There’s all the requisite fight scenes coupled with gritty close-ups of a worldweary Neeson looking very weary indeed. “I’m 60 years old,” he says several times during the movie.

And it shows.

It’s a great reminder that Neeson, while he’s great at kicking ass and taking names is an older actor – a sexagenarian, to be precise. He’s not the only action star that’s well into his middle age.

Tom Cruise, despite his eerily boyish good looks, is 55, Will Smith, 49,  Keanu Reeves is 53, Jackie Chan is 63, Bruce Willis, 62, and Arnold Schwarzenneger is a very healthy 70 years old.

In fact, all of these men entered their action careers as early as the 80’s and all of them are still at it, with Schwarzenneger recently releasing a trailer for his newest venture, Killing Gunther, a film about a group of idiots who set out to kill a legendary hit man.

Most, if not all of them remain headliners, each one anchoring his own movie or franchise, with audiences paying the big (or semi big) bucks to see them in their milieu.

You can’t help but wonder, though, if it gets tiring. Most can’t do their own stunts like they used to, and if they insist, it’s to their own, or the studio’s folly. Watching them ply the same trade they have for the past three decades begs the question, where are the new crop of action stars?

And when we say action stars, a caveat – we mean actors whose performances can carry a movie outside of brand-based content such as those in the Marvel and DC Universes. So none of the Batmans, Supermans, Banes and the like.

Regrettably, while whoever the new Spidermans and Star Wars heroes are, they don’t actually count until they can anchor a completely unknown movie premise and bring it to box office fruition.

For this sort of thing, we have to cast eyes to Ansel Elgort, who made Baby Driver a thrilling ride. Of all the action movies of 2017 without Marvel or DC branding that we can remember, his performance stands out the most. Another notable is Ryan Reynolds, who, after years of languishing in B-List movies actually made Deadpool work. (Yes, Deadopool is a Marvel movie, but it wasn’t supposed to be good. Such is Ryan Reynolds’ charisma)

Strangely, the most viable action stars of the day seem to be women. After her thrilling turn as Imperator Furiosa on Mad Max: Fury Road, Charlize Theron gave a rousing performance as the titular heroine in Atomic Blonde. Scarlet Johansson, for her part, can anchor Lucy, Ghost in the Shell, and take part in The Avengers. 

Perhaps the standards of action stars are changing, particularly for men. The robust careers of the Tom Cruises and Will Smiths are echoes of a dying era. Now, we must look to the women to lead the way, and change our definition of action stars as the stars of their own movies to interchangeable parts in universes already well-defined via fantasy and sci fi.