Oh, look, it is Winter. Must be time for another Liam Neeson film. Last Fall, it was Honest Thief (2020), an eminently forgettable movie. Not bad. Just not good, or memorable for any reason whatsoever. If you have seen any of the films Neeson has done since playing Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, you will know that they are all pretty much the same. Taken (2008) seemingly set the formula, and they made it into a trilogy and a television show. Basically, you have some dude with a “very particular set of skills,” as Neeson’s character says in the first installment, usually the result of some kind of military training. Then bad people do something to him or the people he loves where he must use those abilities with deadly and destructive results. And he has been playing the same person ever since. The Marksman is no different.
We do not see Jim Hanson, Neeson’s character in The Marksman, right away. Instead, we are introduced to the person he is going to save, a little boy named Miguel (Jacob Perez). He lives in the kind Mexican town on the United States border that you would expect, if you watch the news, to be run by the drug cartels. And, of course, it is. Miguel’s uncle calls his mother, Rosa (Teresa Ruiz), to tell her that the cartel discovered the money they stole and are coming after them, urging them to flee. Unsurprisingly, their flight into the United States takes them to the property of retired and decorated Marine Corps veteran Jim Hanson, which abuts the border fence. Hot on the trail of Miguel and Rosa is a few cartel cronies, led by Maurico (Juan Pablo Raba). Jim sees it as his duty while out tending his failing ranch to help border patrol monitor illegal immigrants coming into the country. While riding in his truck along the border fence he comes across Rosa and Miguel on the run from Maurico. They make it onto the American side, while Maurico and his men are on the other. Jim’s first instinct is to turn them over to the border patrol, but Rosa begs him not to do so. There is a desperation in her eyes that, while he does not initially listen to her, convinces him to protect them from these apparent thugs. In the resulting gun battle, Rosa is mortally wounded. As she dies, she asks Jim to take Miguel to their family in Chicago. Even though he follows his first instinct to turn Miguel over to the authorities, he notices Maurico waiting outside of the border patrol station. Thinking Miguel was in danger, he decides to use his step-daughter Sarah Pennington’s (Katheryn Winnick) border patrol agent credentials to abscond with the boy. Together they set out north from the Arizona-Mexico line, using one of those old road atlas guides because Jim does not have a cell phone. In order to keep up, the cartel men are able to track Jim’s credit card whenever he uses it for gas and other needs along their route. The cartel also has a few corrupt cops, one of which manages to stop Jim and Miguel at one point after a few near misses with Maurico. It is at this point that they finally catch up with Miguel, who had the money they were after before burning it. This leads to a final showdown between Jim and Maurico and his three men. Jim manages to pick them off one-by-one but is wounded in the process. Keep in mind, this takes place in Arkansas. They still have to get to Chicago, and now they have no car, no money, and over 600 miles to travel. Somehow (walking? teleporting? hitchhiking? freighthopping?) they make it to Miguel’s aunt in the best city in the world, where Jim leaves him. He then boards a bus and dies, I guess.
If you are thinking based on the title that with The Marksman you are going to get a heaping helping of sniper action, I am afraid you are in for a disappointment. In fact, there is little action at all. Most of the time it is a grumpy old man getting annoyed with an adolescent. Jim is pretty open too about the fact that Miguel is not related to him. Yet a strange man and boy traveling through the country together does not seem raise any red flags for the various people they encounter. Along the way, he drinks consistently in front of the kid, leaves Miguel alone in a restaurant, and teaches him how to fire a gun. This last lesson comes in somewhat handy when the final battle takes place and Jim can finally use his title skill set. Other than this moment, it is a slightly distracting collection of scenes where Jim waffles back and forth as to whether or not he should carry out Rosa’s wishes. This lack of any consistent direction caused me to come to the conclusion that one day the production company got tired of making the movie. They were able to convince the crew to shoot the last scenes where Jim and Miguel arrive in Chicago. And then Liam Neeson wanders onto a bus and takes a nap. The end.
There is no reason to see The Marksman, though there is nothing morally objectionable. I will credit the faith shown by Rosa and Miguel. As his mom dies, she hands her son a Rosary, so score one for the Catholic side. Miguel’s insistence that there is a Heaven in the face of Jim’s embittered doubt caused by the death of his wife is admirable too. So if you find yourself forced to sit through this film, there is a little something there in which to take solace. For the rest you can take out your phone and play Mahjong. Truly, nothing special. Yawn.