Liam Neeson action movies are usually a reliable enough good time. Taken started it all but some are even more fun, and most are better than the Taken sequels. Unfortunately, The Marksman is the one where just throwing Neeson at a generic script isn’t enough.
Liam Neeson IS ‘The Marksman’
Jim Hanson (Neeson) is an Arizona rancher who’s losing his ranch because he spent all his money on his late wife’s medical treatment. When he drives by Miguel (Jacob Perez) and his mother Rosa (Teresa Ruiz) crossing the Mexican border fence, Jim is inclined to call Border Patrol on them.
What Jim won’t do is turn Rosa and Miguel over to the cartel waiting on the other side of the fence. When Jim discovers the stash of cartel cash they escaped with, he decides to help get Miguel to their relatives in Chicago. The cartel decides to cross too an pursue them.
‘The Marksman’ misses the mark
The initial shootout at the border fence is promising for The Marksman. It’s nothing special, but adequate action for a January movie. Unfortunately, it’s a long time before there’s much excitement again.
Jim tries to communicate with Miguel, and it’s tough because Miguel is just caught between various adults deciding his fate. Why should he cooperate with any of them? The Marksman never gets that interesting though, because Jim is obviously the good guy so it’s accepted that’s where Miguel belongs. The conflict isn’t much of a hindrance, and any bond they form is too slight to imagine either character will remember the other after the events of the movie.
On the road, a cop pulls them over for a mildly suspenseful scene in which Jim tries to make a typical stop go as smoothly as possible. There’s not much action, though. Jim talks people into repairing his car and selling him guns without the waiting period, which makes it look all too easy for a fugitive to find cooperation on his quest.
By the time Jim faces off against the cartel at the end, you’ve checked out. They’re just generic cartel guys, even the leader. There’s no distinct villain, which can be overcome with enough heroics, but here it’s yet another factor making The Marksman generic.
Liam Neeson: All-American
Despite Neeson’s Irish heritage, The Marksman sure wants to play him as the all-American hero. Director Robert Lorenz even films him with a flag draped over his shoulder. Jim also looks at a photo of his late wife. Neeson looking at pictures of dead loved ones is a recurring theme in his movies.
The Marksman attempts to pay attention to Miguel’s emotional state too but it’s jarring. Like, 70 minutes in they realized, “Oh, we’d better address he’s mourning the tragedies he’s been through.”
All The Marksman had going for it was the potential to see Neeson save the day yet again. The circumstances would never make it as memorable as an airplane, a train or a snow plow but if he foiled enough bad guys it would do the job.
What little time The Marksman devotes to character development would have been better spent beefing up the action. If the action is generic, it can still be exciting by default. When the emotion is generic, you’re just bored and unmoved.
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