THE MARKSMAN (2021)
Starring Liam Neeson, Jacob Perez, Katheryn Winnick, Juan Pablo Raba, Teresa Ruiz, Dylan Kenan, Luke Rains, Sean Rosales, Alfredo Quiroz, Ann Barrett Richards, David DeLao, Amber Midthunder, Vic Browder, Yediel O. Quiles, Christian Hicks, Roger Jerome, Charles David Richards, Kellen Boyle and Patricia Rodriguez Andrade.
Screenplay by Chris Charles & Danny Kravitz & Robert Lorenz.
Directed by Robert Lorenz.
Distributed by Open Road Films. 107 minutes. Rated PG-13.
For a year or two now, I’ve been hearing rumblings that Liam Neeson was going to leave the action-adventure films behind and go back to some more serious films. After all, at this point in his career, it’s easy to forget that Neeson was a very respected Oscar and Tony-nominated dramatic actor (Schindler’s List, Rob Roy, Nell, Love Actually, Kinsey).
In 2008, he starred in the surprisingly popular Taken as an aging former Federal Agent with “special skills” who saved his daughter from sex traffickers while single-handedly taking down almost the entirety of the Paris underworld. And you know what? Taken was a terrific film, deserving of all its success. However, ever since then, he has mostly played variations on that role – aging tough guys thrust into bloody mayhem against their will.
None of the films that followed were as good as Taken, nor were the characters as interesting. Suddenly, Neeson is looked at as a new-millennium Charles Bronson, or another Bruce Willis with more acting skill. I mean, I get it. There is nothing wrong with taking any role you’re offered, whether it’s worthy of you or not, even if it is just for the money or the work. (Ask Robert De Niro or Nicolas Cage….) Still, doing that won’t do much good for your acting legacy. (Ask Robert De Niro or Nicolas Cage….)
So, we’ve been hearing that he was looking toward doing more significant films again. And right down the line comes something like The Marksman, which is mostly just fine as an action film, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Not even just by Neeson, The Marksman takes on a particularly hackneyed storyline – crotchety aging guy who must accompany a cute kid he barely knows across country to save the child from ruthless killers after the boy’s mother is violently murdered.
I guess that serious turn in his career will start next year.
In The Marksman, Neeson plays Jim Hanson, a conservative former Marine turned rancher who lives in Texas, right on the Mexican border. His wife has recently died of cancer, and the hospital bills have pretty much taken every penny he had. He has had to sell off a big part of his land and most of his livestock, and the bank is threatening to foreclose on the rest. He can’t find a job to supplement his income and pay off the ranch. A longtime recovered alcoholic, he starts drinking again and feeling sorry for himself.
From his ranch, he often sees undocumented immigrants crossing by his fence line, being led into the US by coyotes. Jim always calls Sarah, the daughter of his late wife (from an earlier marriage), who now works for the US Border Patrol. However, all that changes when a young mother named Rosa (Teresa Ruiz) and her young son Miguel (Jacob Perez) arrive on his land.
We already know from an opening scene that Rosa’s brother has run afoul of the local drug cartel and he begged Rosa to make a run for it. So, when they end up on Hanson’s land and Jim is calling the Border Patrol on them, there is no big surprise that members of the cartel show up on the other side of the fence. Rosa begs Jim to take them to safety, and before the border patrol arrives, the criminals start shooting. A trained marksman, Jim fires back and kills the brother of el jefe (the chief), who vows revenge.
Rosa is shot and with her dying breath she begs Jim to take her son up to live with family in Chicago, offering him a bag full of money. Jim lets the Border Patrol take him in, but when he goes to answer some questions at the station, he sees the criminals parked on the other side of the border fence. When he is told the boy is being deported, he takes it upon himself to break the boy out and drive him to Chicago.
That’s pretty much the story, the old man and the boy taking a road trip up north, trying to get to safety while the cartel tracks them across country.
Hanson smartly keeps them a few steps in front of the bad guys, although he makes a few mistakes that seem unlikely for a savvy guy like that. For example, it takes him a bit too long to catch on to the fact that the cartel is tracking their movements by his credit card purchases. Also, one campfire scene with the boy and the money is absolutely ridiculous.
It’s mostly rousing enough, but nothing we really haven’t seen before. And the surprise ending – literally the final shot of the movie – is a bit of a disappointment after all that came before it. It seems out of left field, a dark punctuation mark on a story that did not really need to be shut down that way. It doesn’t totally knock The Marksman off target, but it comes close.
The Marksman is a bit of a placeholder of a role for Neeson, in a career that is piling up the placeholders. It’s perfectly fine for what it is, but Neeson as an actor is capable of so much more.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2021 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: May 11, 2021.