by Rob DiCristino
While there’s always a certain sense of unease and unpredictability at the beginning of a new year, there’s at least a bit of comfort in knowing that Liam Neeson is still our Angry Action Dad, a figure of justice and moral righteousness standing vigil through the long and lonely night. His latest crusade is The Marksman (originally titled The Minuteman and still referred to as The Sharpshooter in the depths of my ever-melting brain), a Clint Eastwood-esque yarn about an Arizona rancher (Neeson as Jim Hanson) who takes custody of a young Mexican boy (Jacob Perez as Miguel) after his mother is murdered by a drug cartel. The Eastwood comparisons are by design, of course, as The Marksman is helmed by long-time Clint producer Robert Lorenz, who made his directorial debut with Trouble with the Curve (also starring Eastwood) in 2012. His second effort is a competent -- if uninspired -- Western drama that scrapes by on good intentions, destined for prominent display in your nearest Redbox.
While Neeson and Perez deliver performances endearing enough to prevent us from falling asleep, nothing about The Marksman is remarkable -- or even incompetent -- enough to bear much mentioning. There are little to no variations on any of its well-worn themes. Everyone is exactly who you think they are: Henson is drawn to this mission out of a sense of paternal purpose. Miguel resists at first, but he comes around after Henson demonstrates his mettle as the titular marksman and his willingness to stuff him full of free hamburgers. It’s a movie full of easy, obvious choices made by virtuous heroes who behave in honest and genuine ways. The villain? Well, he’s bad. He’s greedy and vengeful and he wants to settle the score in that classically antagonistic way. So, the real question is this: Is that bad? Is The Marksman a bad movie just because the characters have no real texture and its drama is just shy of inert? It depends on how much stimulation you need from a Liam Neeson movie called The Marksman.
The Marksman hits theaters today, January 15h.