Misses the mark with an overly contrived, moralistic plot and a miscast Liam Neeson.

The Marksman stars Liam Neeson as an Arizona rancher who, against better judgement, decides to help a Mexican boy fleeing from the cartel and get to Chicago. I’m a big Neeson fan and normally enjoy movies about people trying to flee from the Cartel so this one seemed like a winner. However, despite strong performances from all the cast and great production values, an overly contrived plot with unsubtle morality made this story hard to swallow and ultimately sullied this tried and true premise.

Jim (Liam Neeson) is a widower who has hit hard times. He’s about to lose his house and is desperate to find any kind of work. Just when he thought life couldn’t get any worse, he stumbles across Rosa (Teresa Ruiz) and her son Miguel (Jacob Perez) crossing the border illegally from Mexico onto his ranch. To make matters worse, Rosa and Miguel are being pursued by Maurico (Juan Pablo Raba) and his cartel henchmen. When Jim refuses to hand them over, he’s forced to defend himself and his unwanted guests, which results in a shootout and the death of Maurico’s brother…and Rosa.

After realizing the government will send Miguel back to Mexico where he will surely be killed by the cartel, Jim reluctantly decides to honor Rosa’s dying request to take her son to Chicago where the boy has family. The road trip to the Windy City won’t be easy as their pursuers have vast resources to not only get across the border with ease, but to track their prey using modern technology and their vast criminal network. Jim must rely on his grit and former marine training if he’s to have any chance to get Miquel safely to his family.

Elsewhere, Maurico is driven by a strong sense of revenge for the death of his brother and won’t give up until they capture the rancher responsible. It’s a decent setup that we’ve seen time and time again, one I usually enjoy watching unfold. Unfortunately, apart from a plot that lacks logic, the main issue that makes it hard to get into this story – and it pains me to say this because I’m a huge fan – is the casting of Liam Neeson. He’s many things, but a convincing American rancher is not among them.

At first I tried suspending disbelief thinking it’s quite plausible his character is an immigrant who just threw himself into the rancher lifestyle after serving in the military. But when it’s revealed he’s been in America at least since childhood, I couldn’t believe his character. I feel like this role was written for Clint Eastwood but the producers couldn’t land him or any other tough, old bonafide American actor so they decided to go with Neeson. But it doesn’t work. He still has that A-list onscreen presence and delivers his lines well, etc., but he looks and sounds out of place. He’s not American enough for this role.

Considering this is Robert Lorenz’s (2012’s Trouble with the Curve) second feature film as a director (he also co-wrote with Chris Charles and Danny Kravitz), he’s made a film that looks alright. Despite its strong production value and solid performances from the cast, however, the story itself is so frustratingly idiotic and riddled with logic holes I couldn’t suspend my disbelief long enough to enjoy myself; it’s possible to enjoy a disjointed, chaotic film, but not when the film itself wants you to take it seriously.

Add in the miscasting of Neeson and you’re left with an experience where you question the appropriateness of the choices the characters make while trying to ignore the fact the lead would’ve been better suited to someone like Clint Eastwood or Ed Harris. Given Lorenz’s previous effort actually starred Eastwood, I think my suspicions about who was meant to star in The Marksman are pretty much confirmed.

The fact that every major plot point felt forced in order to create unnecessary obstacles meant I simply didn’t believe what I was watching. I don’t believe that a trained, hardened veteran would hesitate to kill a cartel soldier who is actively hunting him and an innocent child. I don’t believe an ex-marine running for his life from the cartel, armed with a rifle who has a clear shot of the bad guys out in the open after crawling from a car wreck with nowhere to effectively hide, would run and hide when he could just pick them off one at a time easily. I mean, the title is called The Marksman – where is this marksman, exactly?

And finally, I don’t believe he would constantly use his credit cards that can be tracked – despite having a bag of cash – while being on the run from the authorities. It’s all just too far fetched for me and too contrived.

The Marksman isn’t a terrible movie, but it’s not great either. Despite having Liam Neeson in the lead role (however miscast), otherwise great performances and strong production values, the questionable plot makes it hard to take it seriously. If you’re not one to care about the details, then this film is entertaining enough with the added bonus of seeing Liam Neeson kicking cartel butt (which is probably why you’re here anyway) while overplaying the morality card. But if things like believability and plot consistencies are important in your movie watching, this will likely be a frustrating experience without a decent payoff for an ending.

  • MPAA Rating: PG-13
  • Release Date: 01/15/2021
  • Distributor: Open Road Films

Originally published on January 08, 2021 at https://www.popzara.com/movies/movie-reviews/the-marksman-2021/