Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Marksman Is Standard Liam Neeson Fare, But Slower

Veteran star Liam Neeson has done a Hayao Miyakazi, that is, publicly announce that they plan to "retire", and then come back doing the thing they do best. Now in his late 60s, Neeson is back starring as a lead in an action-thriller called “THE MARKSMAN”. The movie opened at local theatres a few days ago on 25 February.

Living in his ranch at the Arizona-Mexico border, Vietnam war veteran Jim Hanson (Liam Neeson) is leading a lonely life together with his trusty pet dog. He has just lost his wife to cancer, and he is about to lose his property to the bank too. He passes by his days with melancholy, downing a regular bottle of whisky, and saving his livestock from coyotes - thanks to his skills as a marksman. From time to time, Hanson would notify the border patrol whenever he spots illegal immigrants pass by his land.

His peace shatters one day when he spots a mother and son cross the fence from Mexico, on the run from the dangerous members of the cartel. In the ensuing violent gunfight, Rosa the mother, gets mortally wounded. Before she dies, she offers Hanson a bag of cash and pleads for him to take her son Miguel (Jacob Perez) to Chicago, where her cousin lives. Hanson reluctantly agrees and the two end up on a road trip up north, with the drug cartel in hot pursuit.

The trip to Chicago starts out awkwardly enough as Miguel blames Hanson for his mother's death, and the impatient and gruff Hanson was treating the entire thing like a chore. Being practical, he was hoping to fulfil a woman's last wish and then, use the money to pay off his debts. But as the ride progresses, the two begin to bond through their shared grief of loved ones lost.

THE MARKSMAN” is co-written and directed by Robert Lorenz, who has worked on several Clint Eastwood films. That ol' Western style is evident in the movie, with its measured pace, grounded sensibilities, and an older grizzled lead actor being a heroic protector. As eye-candy, the movie also takes advantage of the gorgeous Arizona landscape as its backdrop.

Watching Liam Neeson is always entertaining, especially when he plays characters with a mix of guilt and frustration. His Irish sense of humour inevitably filters through in some of his lines. Young actor Jacob Perez gives equal weight in his many scenes with Neeson, providing a sad dimension to their natural chemistry. Usually, kid characters in need of rescue in movies are written as annoying or snarky little brats. For a change, without the need to over-act or say much, Perez's quiet portrayal of grief tugs at your heartstrings.

It is too bad that Kathryn Winnick, as Sarah, Jim Hanson's border patrol agent step-daughter, was simply not given enough lines or scenes that really matter. It goes to show that this is still a guys' movie, and female characters are merely peripheral. Juan Pablo Raba gives an over the top but convincing performance as the baddie Maurico. There is a bit of a revelation on how Maurico became so evil, but the movie is not interested in giving a deeper perspective on members of the Mexican drug cartel. It is all about Jim Hanson - his struggles, his guilt and ultimately, his redemption.

THE MARKSMAN” isn't a trailblazer of any sort, but Red Dot Diva thought it was a watchable action road movie despite its slow pace. It's like comfort food, because you know what to expect - that is, Liam Neeson's character saving the day.

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