The Marksman

  • 01 May - 07 May, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

Liam Neeson continues the Charles Bronson phase of his lengthy career with Robert Lorenz's action thriller representing the actor's second starring effort in three months. Arriving shortly on the heels of Honest Thief, The Marksman is the sort of solid, unassuming programmer that Bronson pumped out with regularity in the '70s and '80s. Think of something like 1974's Mr. Majestyk, except in this case the reluctant hero forced to deal with bad guys is an Arizona rancher rather than a Colorado melon farmer. In both cases, the star – and the film – gets the job done.

It's not that Neeson's character, Jim Hanson, a former Marine sharpshooter, wants any trouble. He's still grieving over the recent death of his wife, his ranch is being threatened with foreclosure, and he's the sort of deceptively gentle soul who coos to his elderly mutt, "Who's the best dog in the world?" But he's forced into action when he witnesses a young migrant woman, Rosa (Teresa Ruiz), and her 11-year-old son Miguel (Jacob Perez) fleeing from a gang of drug cartel killers. Hanson manages to hold them at bay, but not without Rosa being killed in the shootout. In her dying moments, she begs him to take her son to the safety of her relatives in Chicago.

When Miguel is subsequently detained by border authorities, Hanson lets his conscience get the better of him and manages to surreptitiously spirit the boy out, much to the consternation of his border patrol officer daughter Sarah (Katheryn Winnick). Thus begins the cross-country chase between Hanson and the killers, led by the bloodthirsty Mauricio (Juan Pablo Raba), who's less interested in the boy than the large sum of drug money he has in his possession.

The film is most effective not in the relatively brief action sequences – although a climactic shoot-out is well orchestrated – but rather in its depiction of the growing bond between Hanson and the young boy he's risking his life to protect. This is where Neeson's too-often underutilised sensitivity as an actor kicks in, making the formulaic relationship feel credible and organic. It helps that child actor Perez matches him beat for beat, displaying a naturalism all the more impressive considering that this represents his first feature credit.