Liam Neeson has the magic touch that gives a boost to almost any movie he’s cast in, be it a love story or an action thriller. He makes the most mundane films palatable, so it shouldn’t be a shocker that Neeson is the best thing about “The Marksman,” a formulaic (but still entertaining) movie from director Robert Lorenz.
Neeson plays Jim Hanson, an ex-Marine turned Arizona rancher who’s lost his wife to cancer and is about to lose his home to foreclosure. The man lives a life of solitude on an isolated stretch of land that touches the Mexican border. While out tending to his cattle one afternoon with his beloved dog Jackson, Jim sees a young mother named Rosa (Teresa Ruiz) and her son Miguel (Jacob Perez) slip through the border fence and take off running. He stops to help the pair after they plead for protection from the assassins that are following them. Tempers flare and the encounter ends in a shootout, killing Rosa. Her dying wish is for Jim to deliver Miguel safely to extended family in Chicago.
A predictable road trip follows, with the bad guys hot on their trail. The body count piles up as the deadly cartel doesn’t hesitate to kill anyone and everyone who gets in their way. As they try to outrun the danger, the man and boy form an unlikely friendship and manage to stay one step ahead of the killers who remain in pursuit. Eventually their luck runs out, and Jim must do whatever it takes to fight for Miguel’s life.
Neeson spends most of the movie growling at Perez, who doesn’t have much to do himself. The two have a nice chemistry, but Neeson’s grumpy old man shtick seems more fitting for someone like Clint Eastwood. Neeson does eventually get to open up a can of whoop ass on the baddies, but this film is a slight departure from his normal action star routine.
The plot follows standard genre conventions, has plenty of gun violence, and will meet the the expectations of its target audience. Not only is the movie competently directed, but there’s more than enough to enjoy here — especially if you’re looking for mindless entertainment with a hint of a social message. The sentiment is progressive for an action movie, and the illegal immigration angle doesn’t feel forced. It actually works as a means of bringing the characters together.
“The Marksman” isn’t exactly a notable player in the action genre, but it’s a good film for those who want a well-made, solid action movie with few surprises.