JUNE 18th, 2021
MOVIE: THE MARKSMAN
STARRING: LIAM NEESON, KATHERYN WINNICK, JACOB PEREZ
DIRECTED BY: ROBERT LORENZ
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 2 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
This new phase of Liam Neeson’s career has already been a risky and tumultuous one. The Schindler’s List star had a streak of high level productions in the 90’s, from Rob Roy, to The Phantom Menace, Gangs of New York, and Kinsey, he was arguably on top of the acting pyramid. Then as he hit the second half of his career, he found a new groove in action films, starting with Taken, and riding that wave for as long as he could. That tough guy side began to fade after Neeson had some controversial responses to questions about race and now he’s shifted his choices to movies that merge his toughness with the softer sides of life (Made in Italy; Honest Thief). There’s a bit of a problem with this route, where the movies Neeson is making have the muscle behind them, but I’m still not accustomed to this new Neeson, and that’s true for The Marksman. It’s a two-hander, with Neeson playing a ranch owner on the Mexico-Arizona border that witnesses a mother and son escaping the cartel. In his heroism to protect them, it leads to Neeson saddled with driving the kid to safety across the U.S. The journey is filled with fear and an unexpected friendship, but there’s a much needed boost to make The Marksman more than mediocre. Could have used more action.
Neeson’s character is Jim, a loner in a small town, known by everyone within miles of his ranch and the local bar. He keeps to himself and more so since his wife passed away. Outside of tending to his land, Jim has become an asset to the local border patrol, but when Miguel (Jacob Perez) and his mother Rosa become the collateral damage to her brother’s connections to the cartel, they’re on the run for their lives, and at the moment they arrive at the border they come across Jim. Rosa does not survive and now Jim is the lone protector for Miguel against a group of men that will leave no strings untied.
An interesting fact about The Marksman is that it’s not the shoot-em up action picture you would expect. The screenplay is co-written by director Robert Lorenz, Chris Charles, and Danny Kravitz and although the initial scenario that forces our two characters together is thrilling, the majority of the narrative is a road journey between an unlikely protector and a shy kid. But that’s where the charm lies in The Marksman. Neeson keeps himself reserved, playing the role similar to Clint Eastwood’s character in The Mule or Kevin Costner in A Perfect World. The two of them stop at a small motel, try to eat at a diner, and each moment breaks away the distrust. They are becoming friends in a world that has let them both down.
What’s incredibly flawed about The Marksman is the lack of another character, the lack of a different presence than Neeson. Midway through, the conflict involves the United States government taking Miguel and putting him into an immigration process where the cartel can get to him, or Jim trekking him across the country where he would be safest. This is when we are introduced to Katheryn Winnick’s agent Sarah, who is the step-daughter to Jim, looking out for him, and helping him get as far as he can with Miguel. Her performance is fine, but lacking any muscle, any depth to make it relevant to the drama. When her character exits the story, there’s not much left other than open roads.
That’s the overall issue with The Marksman. The premise is good, creating two characters in need of each other, bonding by force, and the other realising a purpose for himself. All of that is established in the first twenty minutes and the rest feels out of ideas, and ultimately lacking in the thrilling shootouts or fight sequences we used to see from a Neeson film. Maybe that is on me. These are new Liam Neeson movies. He’s not the ass kicker he used to be. That’s not a bad thing, it just takes some time to get accustomed to it again. The Marksman isn’t a direct hit, but it has a maturity that will be appreciated much later down the line.
THE MARKSMAN IS NOW AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD AND AVAILABLE ON ALL ON DEMAND OUTLETS.
2 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady