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"The Marksman" Review

 After Liam Neeson's weird career transformation into an action star for the AARP set with 2008's Taken and its lackluster sequels in his mid-50s, he cranked out variations on his grumpy old guy forced to do extreme violence shtick to varying degrees of quality and success. So it is easy to presume The Marksman, which came and went without notice in whatever theaters were open during Hot Fad Plague 2020-21 in early-2021 was more of the same. It's not really, but its rote plot and disappointing ending don't make it unique. 

Neeson plays Jim Hanson, a failing rancher whose land runs right along the Arizona-Mexico border. He's a recent widower whose wife's cancer treatment bills put him in arrears with the bank and they're about to auction his land. Illegal aliens are constantly trespassing and he reports them to the Border Patrol where his stepdaughter Sarah (Katheryn Winnick) is an officer. 

One day he encounters a frightened mother, Rosa (Teresa Ruiz), with her son Miguel (Joe Perez) just past the fence. She's on the run from cartel thugs led by Mauricio (Juan Pablo Raba) who have killed her brother after he warned her to flee with a bag of cash she had. Mauricio demands Jim return the pair to their side of the fence and when Jim refuses, a gunfight breaks out, killing Mauricio's brother and mortally wounding Rosa. She begs Jim to take Miguel to family in Chicago, slipping him an address.

 The Border Patrol comes and mops things up and Jim thinks it's the end of things, but learns that Miguel won't be going to a foster care center, but deported back to Mexico. Knowing that would be certain death, he sneaks the kid out of the station and hits the road toward Chicago, not knowing that Mauricio and his gang are in hot pursuit. 

While The Marksman is blessed with some gorgeous cinematography and a decent performance from Neeson, it never rises above its leisurely pace and formulaic story. The only real tension comes from guessing which stock trope each plot juncture will choose. There are also too many convenient coincidences which aid the cartel forces pursuit; always a corrupt cop to assist them; having a stash house with a hacker able to track Jim's credit card usage (which he keeps using despite having the bag of cash); leaving a trail of bodies in their wake that never factor in subsequent events. Raba lacks serious menace in his performance despite the dirty deeds he does; he's not scary enough. 

Director/co-writer Robert Lorenz has produced a bunch of Clint Eastwood's movies which explains the clip from on old Eastwood movie that's shown and the feeling that The Marksman is something Clint may've starred in 20 years ago. But by keeping the story safe and tame enough to not frighten the early dinner special audience for Clint movies, it prevents it from having any memorable qualities. 

While I was initially inclined to give the movie a middling 5/10 catch it on cable, it's ending was so egregiously dissatisfying I knocked two points off and demoted it to Skip It. Hollyweird has become insanely stuck on the idea that people go to the movies to be made sad. This was called out about the 2021 Oscar nominees and it has infected what's sold as mass market entertainment. Who wants to schlep to a theater, pay $10 per ticket, gawd knows how much for concessions, then spend two hours watching a movie to end up bummed out. 

I'm not saying every movie must end with happily ever after, would it kill Hollywood to understand that after getting burned repeatedly, the paying customers are simply not going to give them money. It's basic self-preservation and they don't want to do it. 

Score: 3/10. Skip it.  


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