Review: The Marksman (2021)

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The Marksman (2021)

Directed by: Robert Lorenz | 106 minutes | action, drama | Actors: Liam Neeson, Katheryn Winnick, Teresa Ruiz, Juan Pablo Raba, Jacob Perez, Dylan Kenin, Luce Rains, Chase Mullins, Christopher Mele, Grayson Berry, David DeLao, Esodie Geiger, Gonzalo Roble,s Kellen Boyle, Sean A. Rosales Elias Gallegos, Dustin Pennington, Amber Midthunder, Charles David Richards, Roger Jerome

About the remarkable transformation of Liam Neeson, who went from award-winning roles in critically acclaimed historical dramas like ‘Schindler’s List’ (1993), ‘Nell’ (1994) and ‘Michael Collins’ (1996) to a true badass action hero of aging Much has already been said and written. In a sense he is the heir to the throne of Clint Eastwood, who during his career also seems to have patented hardened, gruff loners with his sights on sharp but his heart in the right place and especially now that the years are really counting hard, Clint actually plays alone just those kinds of characters (including in ‘Gran Torino’ (2008), ‘Trouble with the Curve’ (2012) and ‘The Mule’ (2018)). Grim, taciturn and unyielding heroes willy-nilly, who have often lingered in the days when masculinity was still a virtue and averse to anything to do with progress.

Neeson plays just such an Eastwood character in ‘The Marksman’ (2021), an action thriller written and directed by Robert Lorenz. That name may not immediately ring a bell, but Lorenz has built up a wonderful resume as a producer of, among others, ‘Flags of Our Fathers’, ‘Letters from Iwo Jima’ (both 2006), ‘Changeling’ (2008) and ‘Invictus’ (2009) and assistant director on films such as ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ (1995), ‘True Crime’ (1999), ‘Mystic River’ (2003), ‘Million Dollar Baby’ (2004) and ‘American Sniper’ ; all on the side of… There he is again: Clint Eastwood. The first film he directed himself was also ‘Trouble with the Curve’, in which Clint plays the lead role. It will come as no surprise that he wrote Jim Hanson, the main character from ‘The Marksman’ with Eastwood in mind. Neeson fits the role of a taciturn ex-marine who spends his old days on a remote ranch on the border with Mexico, whose only companion is an old dog, like a glove. His wife died not so long ago and because of all the expensive hospital bills he has had to pay, it is difficult to keep afloat financially. His ranch threatens to be taken from him, so he tries to drink his worries away at the local bar.

Across the border, Rosa (Teresa Ruiz) and her young son Miguel (Jacob Perez) are forced to flee to America after Rosa’s brother Carlos (Alfredo Quiroz) comes into conflict with a notorious drug cartel. The ruthless leader of the cartel, Mauricio (Juan Pablo Raba) is already on his heels, when they find a hole in the fence at the border just in time. On the other side Jim drives towards them unsuspectingly. When the hallway starts to fire, the intrepid Jim steps into the breach for mother and son. Mother, however, is seriously injured in the shooting. Just before she dies, she begs Jim to take her son to a relative in Chicago. Basically, he wants to deliver Miguel to the Border Patrol, where his stepdaughter Sarah (Katheryn Winnick) works. But when he learns that Mauricio and his men have already crossed the border and have started the hunt for Miguel, he decides to take the boy on a road trip to Chicago. Mauricio, who is not so much concerned with the boy but mainly with the bag of money he is carrying, gives chase and does not intend to let go until he has received his loot.

Neeson and his young passenger’s road trip is just as predictable as you might think. There is no question of any form of originality or creativity in the scenario of ‘The Marksman’. The performance is decent, but no more than that. Exactly what you expect from a genre film like this. What makes ‘The Marksman’ especially enjoyable is the presence of Neeson. Of course we’ve seen him play the part of the sharp-shooting old grumbler often enough – we’ve seen him no different in recent years – but the Irish actor has almost elevated portraying the old badass to an art form. Especially in his interaction with the young Jacob Perez (who makes his debut here) it seeps through that in addition to being ‘badass’, Neeson is also a very good actor, who can also come out very subtly. That makes it the ultimate ‘rough husk, white pit’ type. He warms up slowly and believably for the boy. Between the acts, Jim provides some lighthearted moments with his old-fashioned way of life, for example in the scene where he is looking for a road map at a gas station and the teenage girl at the cash register has no idea what he is talking about.

‘The Marksman’ follows the familiar paths of the action thriller, but still rises above average thanks to the presence of Neeson. The towering Irish actor, who does almost all his stunts himself, despite his age of almost seventy, gives the action hero-against-will-and-thank an extra layer. How we would love to see him in another movie than just action thrillers! But apparently Neeson enjoys his unexpected career turn as a veteran action hero so much that he keeps going until he can’t take it anymore. And why not?

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