WHAT PARENTS SHOULD KNOW
Parents should bear in mind that The Marksman is an action thriller movie starring Liam Neeson, who agrees to bring an 11-year-old Mexican immigrant from Arizona to Chicago while being pursued by members of a killer cartel. In order to understand the movie, make sure to watch it with your subtitles on. The film is well made, but the clichés in the story and the oversimplified portrayal of characters of colour (as well as the white saviour elements of the plot) eventually sinks it. Expect a lot of guns and shootings, bloody wounds, stabbings, fights and animal carcasses. A woman is shot and killed, another is strangled. A dog is shot and killed off-screen. A boy is briefly in danger, and there is dialogue about a woman dying of cancer. The language is strong but rare, with a use of “f–k”, plus “s–t”, “ass”, “hell”, etc. The main character drinks in a couple of scenes and seems to get sleepy-drunk, but there are no other consequences.
WHAT IS THE STORY?
In THE MARKSMAN, former U.S. Marine Jim Hanson (Liam Neeson) is now a rancher living on the Arizona frontier, struggling to pay the bills after his late wife’s long illness. He happens to meet a young mother, Rosa (Teresa Ruiz), and her 11-year-old son Miguel (Jacob Perez), who are crossing the border from Mexico. Rosa asks him not to call the border patrol because she and her son are being pursued by the evil cartel leader Maurico (Juan Pablo Raba), who is taking revenge for Rosa’s brother stealing a bag of money. When Rosa is shot, she asks Jim to take Miguel to his family in Chicago. Jim reluctantly agrees, despite the objections of his stepdaughter Sarah (Katheryn Winnick). But first Jim must get Miguel and himself to safety from the villains who are pursuing them.
IS HE ANY GOOD?
Thanks to Robert Lorenz’s slick, straightforward direction and Neeson’s sympathetic bond with young Perez, this action thriller, drenched in clichés from top to bottom, just about gets by. Lorenz, who has worked as a producer and/or assistant director on many Clint Eastwood films, takes his cue from his mentor in The Marksman, adopting a leisurely, classic narrative style and treating the creaky old material with care. Neeson’s Jim Hanson is shown both with an American flag over his shoulder (as the bank tries to take away his ranch) and in care of an injured immigrant … even as he calls the Border Patrol.
Perez is a sweet kid who is portrayed positively, but too little time is spent on other characters of colour, and the Mexican bad guys are crushingly one-sided: they are portrayed as pure evil with no humanity. Neeson is good in his low-key role: Hanson is a good man at heart (like Tom Hanks’ similar role in News of the World) who just happens to be good with firearms. Fans of the actor will be pleased with the traditional shootout ending, neatly presented without cluttered shaky-cam or choppy cuts. But even as The Marksman comes to an end, it is already beginning to fade into memory.