Release Date(s)2021 (May 11, 2021)
Studio(s)Open Road Films (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: C+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: D
Ever since he starred in Taken in 2008, Liam Neeson has carved out a niche for himself as an action hero with a strong moral compass and the skills to back up his confrontations with bad guys. Less sardonic than Clint Eastwood in his prime, more believable than Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs, and far less insidious than the parents in The Last House on the Left, Neeson plays a man thrust into dangerous situations who uses his training to vanquish evil.
Jim Hanson (Neeson), a decorated Vietnam veteran, owns a cattle ranch on the Arizona/Mexico border. His wife died recently of cancer, leaving him with huge medical bills, and his bank has just warned him that unless he catches up with delinquent payments soon, his home will be put up for auction. He’s on the verge of losing everything.
Driving along a border road, Hanson spots two illegal aliens, Rosa (Teresa Ruiz) and her son Miguel (Jacob Perez), crossing the border onto his land. A group of cartel members, convinced that the woman has stolen money from the cartel, catch up with her and violence erupts. Rosa dies but not before pleading with Hanson to take her son to family members in Chicago.
Law-abiding Hanson turns the boy over to the authorities instead. But when he realizes the boy is still in danger, he sneaks him out of the border patrol office, intent on delivering him safely to his family. The determined cartel members, led by Mauricio (Juan Pablo Raba), use their connections to find out where the boy is and give pursuit. Hanson, in his new role as protector, must rely on his training to outsmart the thugs and fight not only for Miguel’s survival but also his own.
A road trip with violence and morals, The Marksman shows the growing bond between frightened Miguel and gruff Hanson as they make their way north. The early scenes portray Hanson as a hard-working, law-abiding man beaten down by debt, bad luck, and grief. Whenever he spots illegal aliens crossing the border, he contacts the border patrol. He is sympathetic to the plight of the border crossers but never intervenes personally, leaving that to the authorities. Yet he is moved by the mother and son who cross onto his property, and feels a responsibility to them.
Though Neeson brings his star power to the film, it is relatively standard fare with nothing special to distinguish it. Hanson is a modern-day cowboy, a dying breed, and Neeson looks and behaves like a grizzled rancher. Director Lorenz’s long-time association with Clint Eastwood suggests that The Marksman may have been intended for him. In any case, Neeson is convincing in the role but simply cannot overcome a routine script. There’s never a doubt that the plot will turn out OK despite the obligatory series of bloody confrontations, but the action set pieces serve the narrative rather than becoming the narrative. Lorenz manages to stage gunfights, slugfests, and vehicle stunts that succeed in getting the adrenaline flowing.
Young Jacob Perez doesn’t have much dialogue in his first few scenes. When he does open up, we see he’s intelligent and unusually mature for someone his age. He becomes a willing accomplice in Hanson’s plan to elude his pursuers. Mr. Perez handles himself admirably in his scenes with Neeson and is convincing as a child caught in turmoil. Meanwhile, the rapport between he and Neeson is solid.
Featuring 1080p resolution, the Blu-ray of The Marksman is presented in the widescreen aspect ratio of 2.39:1. Browns and tans dominate the color palette in early scenes of Hanson’s ranch and border areas. Bolder colors, such as reds and blues, appear later and draw the eye. The wide screen is used dramatically. Grey, cloudy skies often fill half the frame, emphasizing wide open spaces and apparently endless flat terrain. The saturation is natural and accentuates the southwest American landscape. Cartel members are dressed in black, harking back to the early days of movies when the villains always wore black. A climactic confrontation between Hanson and the cartel takes place in a barn, with sunlight streaming in through the spaces between wooden planks, throwing dramatic shadows.
The soundtrack is English 5.1 DTS-High Definition Master Audio. Optional subtitles include English SDH and Spanish. Much of the audio mix is from the center channel, and the sounds of crickets and birds chirping add nice ambient touches. Dialogue is clear and distinct throughout, though it is minimal, with visuals driving the narrative. A bar scene contains typical background chatter and music, nicely subdued, with the main dialogue dominating. A full surround feeling is realized during shootouts and car chases with considerable directional effects, such as gunshots and roaring car engines.
The 2-Disc release also includes a DVD and a Digital code on a paper insert. The only extra included on the Blu-ray is a featurette.
The Making of The Marksman – In this behind-the-scenes mini-documentary, actors Juan Pablo Raba (Mauricio), Katheryn Winnick (Sarah), and Jacob Perez (Miguel) are interviewed. They discuss the story and their roles as clips from the film and on-set footage are shown. This talking-heads commentary is mostly the producers, actors, and cinematographer patting each other on the back about how professional everyone was on set. Little information about the making of the film is included. Director Robert Lorenz and star Liam Neeson are not interviewed, but are seen in the behind-the-scenes footage.
The Marksman is filled with cliches and highly unlikely situations. We can forgive these shortcomings for a while, but they steadily increase, making it tough to take the plot seriously. Director Robert Lorenz shows little imagination staging the action scenes; there are dead spots that slow momentum and plot points are predictable. In essence, The Marksman endorses violence in the name of moral righteousness and is cynical in its view of authority.
- Dennis Seuling