‘The Marksman’ review: In need of a mission
Liam Neeson plays the reluctant protector of an undocumented Mexican boy in this dusty drama.
By Jeannette Catsoulis
The plot of “The Marksman,” a melancholy road movie starring Liam Neeson, could fit on a bullet casing, but a list of its clichés would require substantially more space.
As would a tally of its improbabilities. Neeson plays Jim Hanson, a widowed Arizona rancher whose cattle are being eaten by coyotes and whose property is being devoured by the bank. All the usual good-guy signifiers are present: the U.S. Marines tattoo on his forearm, the Silver Star in his drawer, the American flag flapping on his porch. Gazing wistfully at the hill where his dead wife’s ashes have been scattered, Jim is a lonely warrior in need of nothing so much as a mission.
Along it comes in the diminutive form of Miguel (Jacob Perez), 11, and his dying mother (Teresa Ruiz), undocumented immigrants fleeing Mexico with money stolen from a drug cartel. One reluctant promise and several rounds of gunfire later, Jim and his rickety pickup truck are transporting Miguel to his Chicago relatives, a posse of deadeyed cartel goons on their tail. Luckily, Jim’s repeated use of a credit card — despite a bag full of cash under his dash — is making their pursuit much easier.
Slow and simple and minimally violent, “The Marksman,” directed by Robert Lorenz, cares more about bonding than brutality. Predictable to a fault, the movie coasts pleasurably on Neeson’s seasoned, sad-sweet charisma — an asset that’s been tragically imprisoned in mopey-loner roles and generic action thrillers. That melted-caramel brogue should be flirting with Diane Lane or Debra Winger, not teaching children how to use guns.