A by-the-numbers revenge thriller, The Marksman centres around a Mexican cartel taking retribution against the family of a man who stole from them.
That man – Uncle Carlos (Alfredo Quiroz) – knows he’s toast. With the cartel on his tail, he puts in a hurried call to his niece Rosa (Teresa Ruiz), telling her to flee with her young son, Miguel (Jacob Perez). And that they do, paying to be led to the hard border with the US, cartel member Mauricio (Juan Pablo Raba) and his cronies in hot pursuit. There they chance upon Vietnam veteran Jim Hanson (Liam Neeson), who patrols for illegal aliens with his dog Jackson.
Hanson has fallen on hard times and has returned to the bottle. A decorated member of the Marine Corp, he lost his beloved wife to cancer recently and the medical bills saw him fall behind on his bank repayments. Now it is about to foreclose on what is left of his ranch. Hanson tries to do things by the book, but that sees him, Rosa and Miguel fall under heavy gunfire. The cartel will stop at nothing to get to Rosa and Miguel. Before long, Miguel’s fate is solely in Hanson’s hands. With corruption all around them, Hanson tries his best to keep Miguel safe. But that’s far from an easy proposition.
Much of The Marksman is predictable. Still there’s tension throughout. Liam Neeson does this sort of thing in his sleep these days, even though he recently announced he is drawing down the shutters on the gun toting, “he-man” roles. He is solid as the morally-challenged Hanson. Jacob Perez brings an understated calm to his performance as the youngster in peril. I can’t say I ever saw fear in his eyes and yet I still appreciated what he brought to his portrayal. Juan Pablo Raba is positively evil as the driven villain of the piece, which is vital to maintain some measure of belief from the audience.
It has been a while between drinks as director for Robert Lorenz (Trouble with the Curve – 2012), who – alongside Chris Charles and Danny Kravitz – wrote the screenplay. Mind you, his pedigree is strong, having produced or executive produced many Clint Eastwood movies, such as Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby and American Sniper.
Lorenz has played it safe, with no real surprises, but just enough grunt to maintain a level of interest. Really for most of its 108-minute running time, The Marksman is a cat and mouse game. If you venture into the cinema without high expectations, you might emerge feeling the film did its job.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.