The Marksman ⭐️⭐️½

The Marksman – PG-13 – 1 hr 47 min
NO SPOILERS Movie Review
Watched in theater Tuesday February 9, 2021
AMC Lakewood 12 – Lakewood, Washington
3rd new movie seen in theater in 2021

Jim is a grief-stricken rancher living on the Arizona-Mexico border. He is raising cattle, trying to use his rifle to keep wild animals from killing his livestock with his dog by his side.

Sarah (Katheryn Winnick), Jim’s stepdaughter, works in a lead position at border patrol and from time to time he will radio in “IA’s” (Illegal Aliens) attempting to cross. If one is hurt, he radios for a medic.

Jim is deep in debt and 90 days away from losing his ranch. A lonely widower who deeply misses his wife, he turns back to the loneliest of unforgivable friends: the bottle. Sarah shows up at the bar for comfort, taking Jim home and puts him to sleep on the couch.

One day a Mexican woman and her son, Miguel (Joe Perez), attempt an illegal crossing and the cartel — a shadowy drug organization — are hunting the two at the fenceline. Jim takes a stand with his rifle and kills the brother of one of the lead gang. The mother is fatally wounded in the standoff when the thugs start shooting. Jim narrowly escapes with the mother and son in his bullet-riddled truck, but the woman doesn’t make it. Her dying wish is to get her son to safe haven in another state. Instead, Jim turns in Miguel to border patrol and heads home.

And thus that becomes the conflict: does Jim go back and take the boy from border patrol, or let him enter the system, possibly returned to Mexico and ending up in the cartel’s clutches? Does Jim answer the mother’s request or let Miguel become a victim of the immigration system?

Liam Neeson might be getting up there in age, but he sure seems to be positioned as the pandemic action star by various movie studios. He gravitates toward — or casting agents find him for — character roles with this quiet, but deadly demeanor and we wait out the film for him to go off.

Despite Jim being a former marine, certainly equipped with some deadly hand to hand skills, he rarely uses them. The movie title aptly describes the only times we see his Marine training. We wait for a payoff that rarely delivers. We think it might, especially after multiple conflicts develop that should cause some sort of rage, but Jim keeps it together. Again and again. It’s boring watching Jim go to the bottle instead of his firearm. Jim, we want to see you snap!

Also, problematic are depths of characters portrayed. The bad guys are little more than cardboard inserts. We never understand completely their motivation. The lead bad guy is just another cliched bad drug guy. He was a soldier too at one time — or still is — but we never learn any more depth about him to comprehend why him and his team want Miguel back so badly. His brother being killed by Jim in the conflict at the border is strong revenge motivation, but we couldn’t help wondering why he had so much extra time to pursue Jim and the boy across the border?

Miguel at first seems like a scared, non-English speaking immigrant, but he does speak almost perfect English. He distrusts Jim and blames him for his mother’s death at the border. Will his character be drawn beyond this point? Will we understand through him why the cartel wants him back in Mexico so badly?

There is a scene at the very beginning of the movie which is supposed to explain the cartel’s motivations, but you’ll have to watch the movie to see if that’s enough story to explain why the rest of the movie exists. It is over so quickly in the beginning that it doesn’t really setup the oncoming events to the extent necessary. Maybe that could have been drawn out a bit more?. Why is the cartel so desperate to hunt down a fugitive mother, son, and rancher with a border patrol connection?

That’s the other problem with this film: logic. Why would the cartel want to stir up a border patrol conflict? Instead, it seems they would want to keep that connection in tact, so they could payoff the agents and get across whenever they want. Instead, they seem to think it’s just OK to start going all guns ablaze at a rancher that could cause ongoing issues for their smuggling and border violation efforts? Doesn’t make sense.

As mentioned in our video below, we were also concerned about the runtime. This drags in spots. It isn’t a complex enough story for 1 hour and 47 minutes. Even shaving another 15-20 minutes would have tightened this up. Come on, filmmakers, learn to tighten up your stories.

It’s essentially a chase and pursuit story with a goal to reach a destination before being killed by the bad guys, meanwhile the border patrol are trying to intervene. There are too many lengthy scenes that don’t add up to anything and missed conflict opportunities galore. Could this have had a lot more action? Yes.

Also, there are important characters introduced who don’t change the outcome of the story like Sarah, for example, who is setup as somebody close to Jim in a position of power and authority, someone that is there for him, but her role in the film is reduced to phone calls and brief interactions and one poignant scene. Was she just window dressing in the story?

The music is too much in the background. The sound isn’t bad, but it doesn’t really add to the film. The cinematography and direction is competent. Neeson is the only one really acting here, the rest of the characters might as well be robots with canned lines. The script is the downfall, but if there had been some standout other characters, Neeson aside, this film would be more entertaining.

Alas, we’re just left with a ship that goes out to sea and is tossed around by wave after gentle wave. The sea never gets that turbulent. The conflicts are there, but they are mostly peripheral. When we get to the ending, we don’t care nearly as much as we should. We’re never invested enough in the story. No investment from the audience if the goal is met or fails. Don’t care that much who lives or dies. If not for Neeson’s performance, he’s the skilled hand at work here, this movie would be much worse.

It does at times try, but like Jim the rancher’s underweight cattle that he tries to sell at one point, this film needs much more nourishment. Not recommended.

Rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️⭐️½ (Todd) ⭐️⭐️ (Kara)

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