In Brief: The Marksman is an action flick that misses the mark. Its aim is so back that it doesn’t even get close to the target.
Liam Neeson is a very good actor. I have loved him in a lot of films. My favorite was Schindler’s List. Others liked his acting in films like Michael Collins and Darkman. As good as Neeson can be, he can also be predictably bad.
Here’s the predictable part. Every January or February since 2018, Neeson has starred in, and been the main character in, a really horrible movie. In 2020 it was Ordinary Love, Cold Pursuit took the prize in 2019 and The Commuter kicked it off in 2018.
The 2021 version of awful is The Marksman.
Neeson stars as a New Mexico rancher whose land borders Mexico. People from Mexico and Central and South America cross his property. Jim regularly turns them over to authorities patrolling the region.
One day a woman and her son cross Jim’s path. They’re running from one of Mexico’s ruthless cartels. He holds them up. That allows the bad guys to catch up. They open fire. She dies.
Before she passes on, the woman hands Jim an address in Chicago and makes him promise to take the boy to family there. Ignoring his promise, Jim turns the boy over to immigration. Then Jim finds a bag of money in his pickup.
It’s a lot of money.
He has financial troubles and is tempted to keep it but guilt over causing the woman’s death gets to Jim. He also knows the boy will be deported and killed by the cartel. Against his better instincts, Jim sneaks into the detention area and smuggles the kid out. Then off they go to Chicago.
Predictable dangers from the cartel aren’t far behind.
The predictability is not surprising. Movies like “The Marksman” only have a few ways to get from A to Z. That’s why writing is so important. A well-written A to Z can be palatable.
One that isn’t will suck horribly.
The Marksman fits in the latter category. The film’s problems start with Neeson’s performance. He hasn’t had much luck with action movies. Neeson has the look but it’s hard to believe he’d blow someone away. Part of the believability issue comes with how he’s often let down by really bad dialogue and pathetic plots. Great actors are just as victimized by badly written dialogue as those who can’t act at all.
In this case, Neeson is held hostage by three writers who’ve never written a movie. So is the rest of the cast.
One of the writers is director Robert Lorenz. Almost all of Lorenz’s experience behind the camera has been as a second unit director for Clint Eastwood. He ran that unit for films like Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby and American Sniper. Lorenz also directed Eastwood in Trouble with the Curve in 2012.
Eastwood is one of the best storytellers working today. Few can top him for keeping a movie moving and for keeping the fat out of a movie. The Marksman is slow, packed with scenes that have zero believability and has continuity troubles galore.
It appears that Lorenz didn’t learn a whole lot from the master and his mentor.
Director: Robert Lorenz
Stars: Liam Neeson, Katheryn Winnick, TVs Vikings, Jacob Perez, Juan Pablo Raba, Teresa Ruiz
Rated PG-13 for mature themes and some violence. The trip from beginning A to ending Z suffers from a predictable, unbelievable script and horrible dialogue. Disappointing but not surprising. Give this one a Friday Flicks with Gary 1 on the 0 to 5 scale.
You can stream The Marksman on a number of streaming sites.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.