• Nate Adams

Review: Liam Neeson fights the cartel in passable 'The Marksman'


Courtesy of Open Road Films

He was an “Honest Thief,” his daughter was “Taken,” and now Liam Neeson is “The Marksman.” Robert Lorenz’s cheesy road-trip thriller that has some spunk, allows Neeson to hone his father figure skills to fight off a batch of cartel thugs while transporting a young boy to safety. Recently, films like “Logan,” or even “The Midnight Sky,” have given macho actors ala Hugh Jackman and George Clooney a young co-star to navigate the harsh terrain. You know where the story is heading, but “The Marksman” is a departure from Neeson’s bare knuckle brawl action flicks and he gets to showcase some range amid a script that flaunts every Mexican stereotype imaginable.


When we first meet Miguel (Jacob Perez) he’s fleeing Mexico with his mother, trying to evade capture by the Cartel mob after running off with a sack of cash. Enter Neeson’s Arizona rancher Jim Hanson (not the puppeteer) who intervenes at the border, saving Miguel after his mother, Rose (Teresa Ruiz) is killed.


While he’s usually the one turning illegals into the authorities, Jim grows a conscience at the eleventh hour, and decides transporting Miguel safely to relatives near Chicago is retribution for getting his mom killed. Or perhaps it’s a way to make peace with himself. Jim lost his wife to cancer in a battle that depleted his finances and now the bank is getting ready to foreclose. It’s obvious he doesn’t have much going for him, but his instincts indicate Miguel deserves a guide. He’s not wrong.


Once they start traveling in Jim’s old Chevy pickup, “The Marksman” becomes your average, run-of-the-mill road rage thriller where the two are tracked relentlessly by Mauricio (Juan Pablo Raba), the Cartel’s top recruiter (and murderer). Outfitted with a bald head, and gang tattoos, Maurcio has plenty of resources at his disposal, including the ability to track credit card purchases. Long gone are the days of breaking legs to get answers (though he murders a young gas station attendant after refusing to give him critical information).


Along the way, Jim and Miguel hash out their differences, understand what matters in life, and tango with a corrupt police officer. Neeson brings a grizzly, “this is where I come from” performance while barking about the uselessness of cellphones and remembering how good Chicago hot dogs are. He’s also a Vietnam war veteren with years of training (naturally) which makes the obligatory final standoff somewhat entertaining, though not entirely fulfilling.


Then again, I suppose that’s the point. Lorenz stages the action with some gusto, complementing how good Neeson looks with a scope on his face and Perez turns in a suitable performance as the impressionable young boy, but one wishes his character had more depth. Those signing up to watch another Liam Neeson thriller where he kicks ass and takes names might be disappointed as “The Marksman” is more down to earth, and by that I mean there’s slightly less ass kicking, and a touch more humanity.


Grade: C+


THE MARKSMAN opens in theaters Friday, January 15th.


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