Director: Robert Lorenz
Notable Cast: Liam Neeson, Jacob Perez, Juan Pablo Raba, Katheryn Winnick
Let’s be honest here, Blood Brothers has certainly enjoyed the Liam Neeson action thriller boom post Taken. Whether it’s the stylish run with director Collet-Serra or his strange penchant for awesome snowbound films, The Grey and Cold Pursuit in particular, his choices as a leading actor lately have been fun even if predictable and formulaic. This is perhaps the reason that The Marksman seems a little off the mark. After finding huge box office success with 2020’s Honest Thief, a film that is quite charming in how it leans into Neeson’s strengths, The Marksman is a substantial regression. It’s an antiquated style of film that feels more concerned with satiating its audience demographic than telling a well-rounded story. The Marksman is a Cannon film without the fun and entertainment and it’s incredibly problematic.
With its mid-budget action thriller genre foundation, focused on an elderly gentleman that must use his particular sets of skills, mostly driving a pick up and– as the title indicates – expert marksmanship, one can easily see why this would fit into the Liam Neeson string of films. Yet, it becomes obvious as the film progresses that Neeson might be perplexingly miscast in the film. Sure, he often struggles to hide his accent in a lot of films, but here it seems obvious as his ex-Marine all-American rancher, Jim, feels at odds with the actor. Neeson can deliver when needed, which works in moments here – particularly once the film hits its cat and mouse chase as Jim and the young Mexican boy, Miguel, he is protecting head on the road to Chicago. The heart shows occasionally, but it often feels as forced as his American accent. It’s not enough to carry the film through the issues even when it works.
Most of the more recent Neeson films certainly aim for a specific demographic and this one most obviously aims for the 35+ year old male. Jim is meant to represent a specific kind of American and there are a handful of scenes that appeal to the 80s pro-American concept of heroes, including scenes where the bank threatens to take his ranch since he’s 6 months behind on payments or how a gun shop sells him some weapons without a background check because he’s an ex-Marine. If you fall into this demographic, then The Marksman will appeal to you. If not, the film feels – as mentioned previously – a bit antiquated even compared to many of his other films. At its worst, it’s a white savior fantasy for older men and when it hits those points, it hits them unapologetically.
On a more surface level, The Marksman tends to deliver all of the prerequisites for a mid-budget action thriller. Its pacing of its second and third acts is brisk, the action is decently shot particularly when the final standoff between Jim and the cartels comes to a head, and the secondary cast is solid enough for a slew of stock parts. Nothing truly stands out though as it moves through the motions though and the film feels like a workman’s effort by director Robert Lorenz, unsurprisingly the assistant director for Clint Eastwood since 1995, but it’s adequately shot and executed in terms of what ends up on the screen.
Ultimately, The Marksman is an underwhelming misfire. There are key moments where one can see why the film exists, the themes and messages that it’s trying to pitch from under the blanket of its 80s inspired script, but the rest of the film is a color-by-numbers affair, far too consumed with catering to its audience and forcing an emotional core that isn’t quite earned. If you’re looking for a cable movie to watch, then I suggest putting your crosshairs on it sometime on FX. As for the first major film released in 2021, it’s one to skip out.
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