Review: Liam Neeson shoots, misses in 'The Marksman'

Action star takes a paycheck in film that pits his dusty rancher against a Mexican cartel

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

Liam Neeson is running out of gas. 

Even by the loose standards of the Irishman's late career turn as a grizzled action hero, "The Marksman" is a scattershot effort, a generic shoot-em-up that pits Neeson's Arizona rancher against members of a Mexican cartel. It's a formulaic fantasy that barely bothers to spell out its characters' motives beyond placing them inside the mechanics of an action movie, winding them up and watching them go. 

Liam Neeson in "The Marksman."

Neeson plays Jim Hanson, whose name is just close enough to Jim Henson as to be constantly distracting. (They couldn't have named him Jim Henderson? Or Jim Literally Anything Else?) Jim is an ex-marine who lives along the U.S.-Mexico border who one day comes across a mother and son illegally crossing into the U.S. Turns out they're on the run from members of a Mexican cartel who aren't far behind, and when the cartel sees them with Jim, words — and shots — are exchanged. 

The mother doesn't survive the confrontation, so Jim takes it upon himself to bring the child, Miguel (Jacob Perez), to safety. That means a cross-country journey to Chicago, where Miguel's family lives, all while the cartel is hot on their trail. 

After a rough start, Jim takes a liking to his young companion and bonding predictably ensues. Meanwhile the cartel — tracking Jim through sporadic uses of his credit card — is never far behind, as if there's only one road that connects Arizona and Illinois.

"The Marksman" has the feel of a modern Clint Eastwood movie — director Robert Lorenz is a longtime assistant director to Eastwood — all the way down to Jim's craggy "get off my lawn"-isms. "Damn it, why the hell'd you have to cross on to my property?" he grunts to Miguel, more upset at the border and his station in life than he is at the child. Jim's a pretty good shot — it's right there in the movie's title — so you know there's going to be gunfire. But in this humorless, standard issue action vehicle, Neeson's aim is off.  

agraham@detroitnews.com

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'The Marksman'

GRADE: C-

Rated PG-13: for violence, some bloody images and brief strong language

Running time: 107 minutes

In theaters