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Review: Liam Neeson saves ‘The Marksman’ from being a total disaster

  • January 15, 2021

“The Marksman,” an action movie starring Liam Neeson and all that implies.

And there are a lot of bullets.

It’s also a buddy picture with a touch of political commentary, a road picture with gunfights. But for all that, director Robert Lorenz’s film (★★½ out of five; rated PG-13; in theaters Friday), which he wrote with Chris Charles and Danny Kravitz, exists mostly to give Neeson an excuse to embody the strong, silent type, more adept at picking off bad guys than making conversation as he saves someone. Again.

It’s sort of a low-key Clint Eastwood act, but in fairness, Neeson’s good at it. He plays Jim Hanson, a rancher in Naco, Arizona – a real-life speck of a town on the border with Mexico. We meet Jim as he’s shooting a coyote that has attacked a dog. While he’s working that out, he spots some people walking through the desert and calls the Border Patrol, saying he’s spotted a couple of “IAs,” presumably “Illegal Aliens.”

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Liam Neeson stars as Jim and Jacob Perez as Miguel, in director Robert Lorenz's The Marksman.

If you’re wondering how subtle this film is, Jim, a former U.S. Marine, literally has a folded American flag draped over his shoulder while he talks to the guy from the bank. 

When Jim hits the bar later that night, we learn why he’s behind: His wife’s medical bills wiped him out. She died of cancer. Her daughter, Sarah (Katheryn Winnick), a Border Patrol supervisor, collects him and takes him home to sober up, but not before he can express how he feels about border issues: “It would be fine if the government could get its (expletive) together and figure that mess out.”

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At first, Miguel has no use for Jim. And Jim has little use for Miguel. But it’s nothing that talk of Chicago hot dogs and a little weapons instruction can’t overcome, naturally.

And maybe, just maybe, Jim can learn a little about tolerance from Miguel. Who can say? (Other than anyone who’s seen a movie like this.)

It’s heavy-handed to the point of absurdity. This is also the kind of movie where people are particularly good at healing from gunshots, stab wounds and flipping cars.

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