What can I say? It’s Liam Neeson – with a straw hat, a rifle, and a faithful dog. There’s nothing particularly unique or original about The Marksman, but Neeson gives the type of performance that’s made him watchable in even the lamest of movies like Honest Thief in October or Made In Italy in August. The Marksman is certainly better than those, but not as good as the moving marital drama Ordinary Love released in barely pre-pandemic times (February 2020). The guy is nothing if not prolific at the ageless action-thriller-romantic hero age of 68. In The Marksman, Neeson plays Jim Hanson, a hardened rancher (with an all-American name and distinctly Irish accent) who works an isolated stretch of borderland in Arizona. He’s a widower drowning in debt, and he doesn’t have much use for anyone or anything outside his ranch, a bottle, and his four-legged companion Jackson. But he’s also an ex-Marine – so he’s got honor. The kind of honor that propels him to make good on a promise to take 11-year-old migrant Miguel (Jacob Perez) to the safety of family in Chicago, even though the border patrol and a group of ruthless killers from a Mexican drug cartel are hot on their trail.

At times I felt like I was watching a contemporary version of the new Tom Hanks drama News of the World, in which a Civil War veteran embarks on a treacherous trek to deliver an orphan girl to family members 600 miles away.  In both scenarios, the Hanks and Neeson characters are reluctant heroes who need some time to warm up to their charges – and vice versa. But once they do, the bond is sealed.

There are some issues with the plot of The Marksman. Jim makes some incongruous choices. And he alternately relies on and defies his concerned Border Patrol agent stepdaughter Sarah (Katheryn Winnick). And the story plays out in a mostly predictable way… ’cause no matter the character, if Neeson’s playing him, you know he’s got a certain set of skills that will put the bad guys in their place and give him a certain measure of salvation or redemption. The Marksman hits that soft target, and lands squarely in middle of the pack of Liam Neeson action thrillers.

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