Watchable, if mediocre entertainment from longtime Clint Eastwood producer Robert Lorenz (Trouble Withe The Curve) allows for Liam Neeson (Honest Thief) to play a character in the mold of Eastwood’s in films like Gran Torino from over a decade ago.
The Marksman has Neeson’s widower and Marine sniper retiree checking on illegal aliens from his small ranch along the Arizona border. A fairly predictable narrative hinges on stolen cartel money from a fallen Mexican woman and her 11-year-old son Miguel (Jacob Perez) offered to the man whose ranched is being foreclosed if he can get him safely to kinsfolk in Chicago.
The nasty head of the syndicate is Mauricio (Juan Pablo Raba of Peppermint) on the trail of Jim and Miguel who’ll gradually bond well after the early deadly shootout. The former draws on his somber, irascible nature in ways that fit into a prefabricated enterprise as the director initiates at least a couple of taut interludes, including an action-filled climax. Opportunities are there for this unlikely duo to elude or outsmart the menacing Mauricio.
It helps that Jim has a step-daughter Sarah (Kathryn Winnick) who’s staffed at Border Patrol, being able to step in for him while accompanying during a long transport of an undocumented immigrant minor. Thus, a tale of a violent existence coming back to enkindle its protagonist may be a kindred spirit to the concurrent Tom Hanks/Paul Greengrass Western, News of the World. As meandering as News could be at times, The Marksman makes less of a mark in its raw, naturalistic tendencies. and, as ennobling as Neeson can bake his character too much of The Marksman is underdeveloped in un-Hollywood fashion as it plays in stereotypical Sicario lite, tepid fashion