Jim Hanson (Liam Neeson) is a Vietnam war veteran and widower living on the Arizona border and leading a quiet life as a rancher alongside his dog. One day his world collides with that of a cartel when he fights to protect a Mexican family on the run. He eventually comes to care for a young boy named Miguel (Jacob Perez), and Jim agrees to take Miguel to his family in Chicago. But members of the cartel are hot on their trail, and eager for vengeance and bloodshed…
There’s a trend, it seems, that since Neeson’s 2019 action-thriller ‘Cold Pursuit’ proved a disappointment at the box office (which is a shame, because it was actually rather good), the genre of “Liam Neeson action movies” are taking a backseat, opting for on demand releases rather than cinemas. After all, the recent ‘The Ice Road’ debuted on Netflix in the US and Canada, and on Amazon in the UK and Ireland. Now this latest ‘The Marksman’, has similarly made its way to Hulu and Amazon.
One could argue the trend is due to the pandemic’s impact on cinemas, and that’s certainly a factor. But there’s also the fact that “Liam Neeson action movies” don’t make the same big return that they used to. Moreover the high concept, set piece-focussed, and not particularly intellectual nature of these movies is well-suited to on demand viewing from home.
While this reviewer admittedly had a bit of fun with ‘The Ice Road’, charmed by its melodramatic leanings and effective use of cinematography in relation to the anxiety-inducing unstable ice, one just feels there’s not a whole lot that distinguishes ‘The Marksman’. It’s far from a mark above the rest, involving a basic, clichéd and predictable screenplay, and including some cringe-inducingly pointed shots, such as when Jim drapes a US flag on his shoulder early.
Once again, Neeson plays a character in mourning (again, rather pointedly) and one must admit, he brings a great sense of presence to this as to every other leading role. Elsewhere, the standard of acting isn’t great, but newcomer Jacob Perez shines through, bringing subtlety and likeability where the movie can be quite unsubtle and lacks charm.
‘The Marksman’ is a bit like 'Logan', without the superpowers and without the same emotional kickers. One is relieved that at least they’ve figured out that it’s better to arm Neeson with a gun and have him drive around fast (which they exercised in ‘The Ice Road’ too) than have him do lots of running, jumping over fences (yes, we’re looking at you ‘Taken 3’) and hand to hand combat.
The ending, too, is hammy and makes little sense, and generally speaking, the bad guys get a lot of screen time which could have been tightened up. It’s not the worst Liam Neeson action movie out there, but it’s clear the formula is becoming well worn.