Liam Neeson’s latest thriller misses the mark.
Director Robert Lorenz is a collaborator with Clint Eastwood on a number of projects. He’s produced “Million Dollar Baby,” “American Sniper,” and “Gran Torino,” among others, and he made his directorial debut in “The Trouble With the Curve.” “The Marksman,” his first collaboration with Liam Neeson, is a misfire in its attempt to take this particular “Taken” genre by giving it an Eastwood scope. It relies on one movie cliche after another, and some of its decisions make you cringe.
You hope the movie would be as good as the posters and trailers make it appear to be, or maybe as a B-movie, but it just doesn’t cut it. Yes, you get some good acting and a connection between two different characters, and you are at the edge of your seat, at times, but you’ve basically seen all this stuff before. If you’ve seen one thriller about dodging bad men, you’ve seen them all.
Neeson plays a former marine and ranger on the Arizona border, who just lost his wife, and needs the money to pay off his ranch debts. He then comes across meet a young Mexican boy named Miguel (Jacob Perez) and his mother (Teresa Ruiz), both of whom are in danger from a drug cartel (led by Juan Pablo Raba). When the rancher tries to warn the bad guys to stay away, they’re forced to set fire, and it’s the law of these kinds of movies that the mother has to get killed by them. Now the boy is an orphan, and his only hope is to live with his remaining relatives in Chicago.
That doesn’t stop the cartel from burning his house and pursuing them, does it?
If Neeson knows the game of dodging international criminals in “Taken,” then why did his character think it was a good idea to use a credit card at a gas station, when it can easily be traced by the cartel? It’s a stupid choice, and it murders a young employee in the process.
And that’s not the only time, he uses a credit card. The next one has to involve a dirty cop on the cartel’s payroll. But eventually, he comes to his senses when he uses a $100 bill for a motel room. Although, the boy drops the map book when they both get popped, and the cartel finds them at the motel.
“The Marksman” only works when Neeson and Perez connect during the second half of the movie, and they have tender moments. The best is when they burn cartel money in order to keep themselves warm around a fire. It represents their joy and serenity. But it’s an obligatory movie with obligatory elements and characters. Will these action stars stop bringing credit cards or cell phones on the run, and find something else to make the movie risk-taking? Is it really that hard? Neeson and Lorenz (who also wrote this with Chris Charles and Danny Kravitz) are both talented people, but they don’t provide as muchness they should.
We’re in the month of January, when we’re looking for new movies to see, and when we’re waiting for our COVID-19 vaccinations, and I’ve applied for one, BTW. So, for those of you who need to be in a movie theater to prevent your kids from assuming every movie will be released online, you need to see a new movie in theaters. In the action genre, you probably need “The Marksman” to hold you at bay, but you can also see “Wonder Woman 1984” or “News of the World” or maybe some classic returns. I sympathize that dearly, but as a film critic, I also need to put my foot down every now and then.