Strangely, except for Darkman, I never considered Liam Neeson to be an action star, but he’s taken the mantel in the latter half of his life and career. In director Robert Lorenz’s The Marksman, Neeson’s Jim Harrison has one particular skill… I’ll give you a moment to guess.
Harrison is a bitter, retired veteran living close to the U.S.-Mexico border. One day, he witnesses a young mother and her son crossing the border while chased by cartel assassin Mauricio (Juan Pablo Raba). When the mother, Rosa (Teresa Ruiz), is killed, Neeson takes it upon himself to take her son, Miguel (Jacob Perez), to his relatives in Chicago. Mauricio is laser-focused on chasing down the pair and eliminate Miguel at any cost.
Along the way, our pair realize just how powerful the cartel is as they can find no help from U.S. law enforcement as they are on the cartel payroll. Whether it’s border patrol or some backwood sheriff, no one can be trusted.
The Marksman is a mid-budget action-thriller that could only afford one or two major action sequences. It’s pretty low frills, with the primary extravagance being Liam Neeson. Energy is pumped into the story thanks to the budding pseudo-parent/child relationship built between Harrison and Miguel. It’s cute and works just enough storywise to string the action together. Also adding to the fun is the sadistic nature of Mauricio. He’s just a stone-cold killer with a military background serving as his only connection with Harrison.
“…a bitter, retired veteran living close to the U.S.-Mexico border…witnesses a young mother and her son crossing the border…”
There’s a big plot hole present in Chris Charles and Danny Kravitz’s script that popped into my head while watching the film. Miguel is a kid who had a front-row seat to the gruesome death of his mother. Days later, he seems perfectly fine. After watching way too much, Dexter isn’t this how serial killers are born.
The action is decent — no real big stunts or explosions. Most of it is hand-to-hand fighting and the occasional gunfight. For a movie called The Marksman, there’s not a lot of shooting going on. This is the kind of action and story I see with many of our independent thrillers. The problem is that I’m looking for memorable moments or set pieces that give off this “you gotta see this” feeling. You don’t need a big budget to put one or two of these in your film. What I remember most about it is not the action but the sadism of Mauricio and the lingering memory of his senseless killings.
In the end, The Marksman is a good movie, but not great. Neeson elevates the material and keeps it from going over-the-top into absurdity. Neeson is really the only reason to see the film. He gives a good performance as the everyman with a particular set of skills. It’s all just good, plain old good, and at the same time, it’s forgettable. I saw it, and I’ll probably never go out of my way to see it again.
"…Neeson is really the only reason to see the movie."