Review by Adam Donato
January is known as the dumping grounds for new movies, along with the wide releases of Oscar hopefuls. The mercy of a pandemic plagued time is that there’s less January garbage to go around. The recipe for box office “success” seems to be nothing movies with a notable star. There’s an audience for Taken lite, just ask Honest Thief. Enter The Marksman, directed by Trouble With The Curve director Robert Lorenz. Is it quality enough to brave the storm of what is a dystopian theatrical landscape?
The Marksman succeeds as a movie because it prioritizes strengthening the relationship between Liam Neeson and Jacob Perez over gritty action. Neeson is cool and is known as this badass action star, but he’s also almost 70 years old. There’s no good reason, besides nostalgia, that Harrison Ford should return as Indiana Jones. General audiences don’t want an action hero who can break something just by moving. Neeson disproves this theory every year. Maybe it’s some kind of wish fulfillment for soon to be retirees, that maybe they too can still fight like an action hero. Call it movie magic, but there isn’t a soul out there who wouldn’t be threatened by a scorned Liam Neeson.
For a movie called The Marksman, there’s not too much marksmanship in the movie. Neeson is a down on his luck ex-Marine who is obligated to deliver an illegal immigrant child to his family in Chicago, while being chased by members of the Mexican Cartel. This story has fatalities, but it isn’t a bloodbath. Most of the movie is these two unlikely friends getting along, and it basically works. It’s less of an action romp and more of a road trip drama. What makes action hit hard is when the audience cares about the characters in action and The Marksman invests heavily in its leads.
There’s a lot to like about what the movie is trying to say. It’s about compassion and moral obligation. Neeson’s character is obnoxiously down on his luck from the start. His self righteous duty to fulfill the request of the child’s mother would come across as annoying if it wasn’t so admirable. Without spoiling anything, the ending brings these themes to their proper conclusion. What a bold movie, that is less worried about what’s “cool” and more worried about what makes sense for the story that is being told.
Is it Shakespeare? Obviously not. The story is quite generic, but works. There’s nothing special about The Marksman, but it does its job. Set ups are paid off. Character arcs are given precedence over action. The lead is strong and likable. When it comes to January fodder, it stands above as a very solid post-Taken Neeson flick.
The Marksman opens in theaters on January 15.