Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 2, 2021)
Although the COVID-19 pandemic altered the theatrical release dates of dozens of films, it didn’t slow down aging badass Liam Neeson. First Honest Thief hit screens in November 2020, and then The Marksman followed in January 2021.
Neither movie raked in much money. Nonetheless, given the conditions, the simple fact the flicks made it to theaters counts as something.
After his wife dies of cancer, rancher Jim Hanson’s (Neeson) funk leads him to let his property go into debt. With foreclosure looming, he needs a miracle to save his land.
When her brother Carlos (Alfredo Quiroz) runs afoul of Mexican cartels and they kill him, Rosa (Teresa Ruiz) takes all her worldly possessions and son Miguel (Jacob Perez) on an attempt to illegally cross into the US. The parties from whom Carlos stole chase after Rosa and Miguel and attack them as the go through a border fence.
By happenstance, Jim comes upon this situation and enters into a firefight with the gangsters. This leaves some of them dead and Rosa mortally wounded.
Rosa offers Jim the thousands of dollars she got from Carlos if he’ll deliver Miguel to family in Chicago. He grudgingly agrees to do so and finds himself stalked by the cartel members, led by Mauricio (Juan Pablo Raba), a thug whose brother Jim killed in self-defense.
At this point in his career, Neeson seems largely to agree to movies for paycheck reasons. Though Neeson occasionally appears in prestige projects like Martin Scorsese’s Silence, most of his flicks in the post-Taken era tend toward “B”-level thrillers.
To refer to Marksman as “B”-level would come as an act of grade inflation. I don’t expect a whole lot from Neeson these days, but at his best, he can give us some fun action flicks. For instance, Honest Thief offered nothing new or fresh, but it still provided decent excitement.
Virtually not one moment of Marksman gets to “B”-level, as it remains resolutely, wholly “Grade Z”. Utterly predictable and completely preposterous, the flick never goes anywhere interesting.
Honestly, they should’ve titled this Plot Device: The Movie, as we get one “convenient” cinematic choice after another, virtually none of which ever ring true. The film forces the characters to act like idiots on a persistent basis, and the viewer will likely feel tempted to throw a rock at the screen in disgust before too long.
Nothing original or intriguing materializes here. We know exactly how the characters will “develop” and precisely what kind of threats will materialize, so nothing surprises or entertains.
Boy, does Marksman lay on those plot contrivances! In the real world, Jim and Miguel would make their drive from Arizona to Chicago without much incident, as it seems unlikely Mauricio and crew could really keep track of them over the 1800-or-so mile trek.
Enter the aforementioned plot contrivances, as Marksman comes up with one absurd stretch of reality after another to ensure that the threat relentlessly stalks our protagonists. None of these feel believable.
It doesn’t help that the characters never become anything more than cardboard cutouts and we don’t really care what happens to them. Jim seems like one of Neeson’s weaker “aging badasses”, and the character feels too incompetent to achieve his violent goals.
Perez creates a bland partner for Neeson, as the pair exhibit zero chemistry. Raba does nothing to turn Mauricio into anything more than a cartoon baddie, notable solely because he looks like a Mexican Henry Rollins.
If I try really hard, can I come up with anything positive to say about Marksman? Nope. It delivers a tedious and boring stab at a thriller.