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With: Liam Neeson, Katheryn Winnick, Teresa Ruiz, Jacob Perez, Juan Pablo Raba
Written by: Chris Charles, Danny Kravitz, Robert Lorenz
Directed by: Robert Lorenz
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, some bloody images and brief strong language
Running Time: 108
Date: 01/15/2021

The Marksman (2021)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Law and Border

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Due to the smooth, simple direction by Robert Lorenz (Trouble with the Curve), and Neeson's appealing, sympathetic bond with young Perez, the action-thriller The Marksman — which is steeped in cliché from top to bottom — very nearly gets by.

Former U.S. Marine Jim Hanson (Liam Neeson) is now a rancher living on the Arizona border struggling with paying the bills after his late wife's long illness. He happens upon a young mother, Rosa (Teresa Ruiz), and her 11 year-old son Miguel (Jacob Perez) crossing the border from Mexico.

She begs for him not to call the border patrol; they are being pursued by an evil cartel leader Maurico (Juan Pablo Raba) in retaliation for Rosa's brother stealing a bagful of money. When Rosa is shot, she asks Jim to take Miguel to live with family in Chicago. Jim reluctantly agrees, over the objections of his step-daughter Sarah (Katheryn Winnick). But first Jim must keep Miguel, and himself, safe from the vicious cartel killers.

Lorenz, a producer and/or assistant director on many Clint Eastwood movies, channels his mentor on The Marksman, with unhurried, classical storytelling, treating the creaky old material with care. (He also features Eastwood in The Beguiled on a hotel TV.)

Neeson's Jim Hanson is shown both with an American flag draped over his shoulder (as the bank tries to take his ranch away) and showing concern for an injured immigrant (even as he calls the border patrol). Perez is a sweet kid and provides at least one positive view of immigrants, but too little time is spent on other characters of color, and the Mexican villains here are crushingly one-note, pure evil with no humanity.

Neeson, however, is fine in a low-key role, a good man at heart (like Tom Hanks's similar role in News of the World), who just happens to be handy with firearms. The actor's fans will be pleased with the traditional shootout ending, presented neatly and without cluttery shaky-cam or choppy editing. But even as The Marksman wraps up, it already begins to fade from memory.

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