Another year, another Liam Neeson-with-a-gun movie.
“The Marksman” stars Liam Neeson as a retired U.S. Marine who lives on the Arizona-Mexican border, and is forced to escort a young Mexican boy (Jacob Perez) to Chicago while being pursued by cartel members. Katheryn Winnick, Juan Pablo Raba, and Teresa Ruiz also star, while Robert Lorenz directs.
Despite insisting he was done with the “retired/widowed/alcoholic ex-killer gets caught up in a situation and reluctantly does the right thing” movies several years ago, this is the second such film of Liam Neeson’s to come out during the pandemic alone (the other being the perfectly fine, whatever “Honest Thief” last October). I could honestly copy and paste most of my review for that film here and not need to change anything but names and locations, because like many of Neeson’s recent outings “The Marksman” is a very workmanlike, boilerplate installment into a well-worn genre that will give its intended audience their kicks.
While “Taken,” “Non-Stop,” and even “Unknown” all have their own sense of flair and energy, recent films by Neeson have been pretty tame. However that is not the fault of the 68-year-old Irishman. Unlike Bruce Willis, who seemingly puts out a new film every three months and reads his lines like a hostage tape, Neeson never phones his roles in. Yes at this point he is essentially playing himself, growling and only half-trying to conceal his Irish accent, but he adds a sense of gravitas to these films that would otherwise feel straight-to-VOD.
Unlike “Honest Thief” I will at least give this film credit for having a little bit of color. Cinematographer Mark Patten includes some nice sunset shots painted against the desert hills of the American Midwest, and makes each state that Neeson and Perez pass through feel at least a little unique.
The film is paced fine-enough, although there really isn’t 108 minutes’ worth of actual content here. Like most buddy road trip movies there are plot conveniences to force the story along (Neeson finds a bag of money but continues to use his credit card simply so we have an excuse for the bad guys to track him), and until the final shootout there isn’t much action. Robert Lorenz has made a career producing Clint Eastwood’s films (his sole other directorial effort was of Eastwood in 2012’s “Trouble with the Curve”), and it is easy to see this having been written with Eastwood in mind (this plot is also incredibly similar to Eastwood’s 2018 film “The Mule”).
Those who like Liam Neeson shooters or any these senior citizen romps should get their kicks, and if you’ve been looking for a reason to return to the theater then this is as good-enough as any I suppose. Normally January is reserved for the stinkers (last year’s worst film “The Grudge” literally came out on the third day of 2020 and I never forgave it), so by those standards “The Marksman” is a hit; just know that this isn’t Neeson’s first rodeo, and he and Lorenz have every intent of sticking to the formula, for better or worse.
Critics Rating: 5/10