"There is absolutely nothing that feels good about killing a man."
Prior to 2008's Taken, Liam Neeson was hardly considered an action star. That film, along with turns in Unknown, The Grey, The Commuter, Non-Stop, and A Walk Among the Tombstones, provided the Oscar-nominated actor with an unexpected career-altering path. He has since proved to be one of the most consistent and bankable stars in the genre, Robert Lorenz's The Marksman no exception.
In the film, Neeson plays Jim, a retired Marine who lives near a border crossing in Naco, Arizona. While out patrolling the wall, he encounters a mother and her son, Miguel, running from the cartel. An altercation ensues, setting in motion a series of events that sees Jim escorting Miguel to family in Chicago; he too now a cartel target.
Let me first say that almost everything about The Marksman is unrealistic. An unapologetic staple for practically every Neeson action film, the story is laced with improbable developments and unworkable action sequences. That is, in large part, expected and appreciated.
But even with all the rightful ridiculousness, nothing excuses the severe disconnect between Neeson's Jim and Miguel, played by relative newcomer Jacob Perez. Their shared grievances is an obvious point of camaraderie, helping to explain Jim's sudden decision to trek across the country for a child he just met. But the lack of a concrete backstory keeps things muddied, handicapping the two from forming an honest bond.
When the pair venture into a diner to enjoy dinner, the scene ends with Jim asleep, by choice, in his car. The incident repeats itself on a few occasions, though the reasoning remains unknown. This is one of several oddities woven into the film's primary narrative. Another of which rests in the lack of governmental presence showcased throughout.
Outside of Jim's step-daughter, border patrol officer Sarah (a painfully underutilized Katheryn Winnick), the film tiptoes around the use of law enforcement. Though Jim does call to keep her informed of his actions, there appears a deliberate decision in play as Lorenz persists your attention on Neeson. He is on this mission alone, and no one can be trusted; a traffic stop all but assures that.
Plotholes plague the film's story from the onset, as does a quiet, blatant feeling of incompetence. From the use of a credit card to the dropping of a map, several of the film's missteps are elementary, a constant that often exists when kids are involved. However, Lorenz's need to heavily foreshadow grows tiresome as the film rarely leaves anything to chance, force-feeding you the basics in an attempt to relax and disengage the mind.
Though many of Neeson's films carry a sense of simplicity, Lorenz goes overboard here as The Marksman is the most straight-forward in recent memory. Considering Neeson isn't working to uncover a truth or right a wrong, it isn't much of a surprise. That said, it would still be nice to witness a twist of some level as the film, at times, feels more like an old school western than a current era thriller.
But with Neeson, we've come to excuse the obvious and appreciate the absurd. There is just something about the cemented genre actor that works. Lorenz knew what he had and played to it perfectly; authenticity be damned.