Released: 21st January
Seen: 4th February
Can we, as a society, just admit that Liam Neeson action films have become repetitive and stale? Is that a thing that we can collectively do? Hell, let’s be honest, they were getting stale roughly around the third time he played a character who had a member of his family taken. It’s now to the point where you could write a Liam Neeson action film using a madlib form, they all have the same basic plot and only change the minor superficial details. It’s always the same and every time it gets a little bit less interesting and The Marksman is just another one for the pile.
The Marksman, AKA Liam Neeson Action Movie #457, Liam Neeson plays Jim who is currently a good man but has a past as a Vietnam vet which provides him with a very specific set of skills. He runs into a woman named Rosie (Teresa Ruiz) and her son Miguel (Jacob Perez) who is here to both push Jim to admitting his past misdeeds and to be the damsel/child in distress when the time comes for Jim to get very serious and prepare for his spree of violence against the real bad guys of the movie. What spurs this spree of violence? Well, Rosie and Miguel try to cross the border to escape from the cartel and Jim ends up killing one of the cartels, causing them to chase him across America. What follows is basically what you expect.
So, here’s how repetitive and cliche this movie is… the last two paragraphs are just lifted from my Honest Thief review with the names and minor details changed. I was able to do that without it really making a difference. Hell, I barely even had to change his character name, I changed 2 letters. I probably could’ve done the entire review like that but I would’ve felt lazy… but again, absolutely could have done it and it would’ve fit because that’s how repetative this film is.
The Marksman may as well be called Taken 73: Mexican Run, except somehow it’s not even as good as THAT title might imply. At least Honest Thief (and every other “Liam Neeson Action Film”) has some decent action sequences that created some sense of forward momentum. This just has driving intercut with random moments of violence by the Cartel, and not even interesting violence either. I’m neither excited nor intrigued by the acts you’ve put on screen, I’m just bored. Maybe I’m bored because I’ve seen this before, maybe I’m bored because no one has any chemistry, there’s many possible reasons to be bored and this film seems to try all of them.
Boredom feels like it was the full aesthetic because The Marksman knows you don’t wanna be there for too long so it’s just powering through as quick as it can, which is good because I couldn’t be bothered to stay much longer than the 108 minutes it’s asking for me so just get through all the boring crap to the final shootout which only has one moment that’s kind of exciting (a car flips after being shot twice… cos, ya know, now we’ve decided to go over the top in the final scene) and the rest is just beige. It’s all beige, shot in large dusty landscapes with a few moments of colour outside of dust and dirt that flies around. It’s boring to look at, even the central characters don’t stand out that much.
Do you know how you do a story where we’re meant to be scared by a man in a specific car? You make the cars memorable looking. Go watch Unhinged where our main character was in a bright red car and the villain was in a gigantic black beast of a car, both cars were unique looking and stood out compared to everyone else around them so even in wide shots, you know where everyone was and you could tell at a glance where both characters were and, therefore, you felt tension building when you saw the giant black beast of a car in the background because you knew that meant the bad guy was catching up to our hero. The Marksman doesn’t have that kind of tension building, not sure it even has any tension at all. It just has this constant threat that the scary Mexican men (the only adult Mexican men in the movie, because we’re still doing that apparently) might turn up wherever the main characters are and do some violence that isn’t remotely interesting.
Oh, did I forget to mention The Marksman is another film (kind of like Rambo) that does the “Every mexican is terrifying and evil except for the women and children” thing? Because it does, it just has this feeling of painting all Mexican men as violent criminals with no redeeming value. Now, I’m not saying you can’t have the Mexican cartel as a villain. Anyone can be a villain in a movie, the question is if that’s the only representation of them as presented by the film and this one only offers the label of “Decent” to one Mexican woman and her child. Hell, they make it clear how bad the men are by having them turn into Michael Myers and kill everyone in their wake, including a dog (so if that’s a deal breaker for you, there’s your warning.
Here’s the worst thing… Liam Neeson isn’t even interesting in this. Usually, in all these films, Liam is a charming enough lead that you still care but maybe I’ve just seen him play this exact character so many times that I don’t care one bit about him. They can set his house on fire and shoot his dog (oh. Yeah… warning) and my only reaction might be to shrug because I have no more fucks to give about any of these “I’m a loner with a secret past and oops you pissed me off so you need to die now” characters that Liam keeps playing. Please, for the love of God, do some comedies or maybe a drama or just anything other than this.
The Marksman is what you expect when you see Liam Neeson standing on a poster and holding a gun. It’s lost all possible nuance and everything interesting about the concept and is running on fumes. Not even fumes, the idea of fumes that have long dissipated. Even 80s slasher films weren’t this repetitive and exhausting, and that’s a genre known explicitly for being repetitive and exhausting. I’m just so bored, I need a nap.