“The Marksman” Distributed by Open Road Films, 108 Minutes, Rated PG-13, Released January 15, 2021:
Actor Liam Neeson as a retired US Marine transports an orphaned and imperiled young Mexican child to safety in the new action thriller “The Marksman”...and simultaneously makes one too many trips to a well that might’ve dried up from overuse.
Former Marine Jim Hanson is an aging alcoholic widower living on a failing Arizona cattle ranch on the Mexican border. Cash-strapped and earning extra money by reporting illegal crossings to the US Border Patrol, Hanson helps a Mexican woman and her son escape from a murderous drug cartel. When the mother is gravely wounded in the resulting firefight, Hanson promises the dying woman he'll transport her young child to relatives in Chicago...but is hounded every step of the way by both the bloodthirsty Mexican cartel and agents of the US Department of Homeland Security.
Directed by Robert Lorenz, “The Marksman” turns out to be mean, messy, and dumb little action drama without a solitary redeeming virtue. Director Lorenz does a fairly competent job of introducing the movie’s characters and establishing its well-worn premise, but after about twenty minutes the picture begins to wander aimlessly through suspense scenes with no suspense and action sequences so tame that most of the shooting is done offscreen. Even the picture’s is misleading--Neeson’s character isn’t a particularly good shot.
With a script seemingly concocted by Chris Charles, Danny Kravitz, and the director from dozens of better films, “The Marksman” lacks nuance, subtlety, and character development. The inevitable result is that the audience has nobody to root for--some characters are just worse than others. The only point of interest in the movie is wondering why Liam Neeson’s not indulging in a late career renaissance of challenging roles instead of churning out nonsense like this.
Director Lorenz is best-known as the producer of many of filmmaker Clint Eastwood’s more recent pictures, from “Blood Work” in 2002 and “Mystic River” in 2003 to “American Sniper” in 2014. Lorenz’ only previous film as director was 2012’s “Trouble with the Curve,” a poorly conceived sports drama which managed to lose money at the box office despite its modest budget and Eastwood himself starring in a rare return to acting.
Filmed in and around Chardon, Ohio (!) with location scenes shot in New Mexico, “The Marksman” is rated PG-13 for violence, some strong language, and bloody images.