I’m starting to question what the purpose of Liam Neeson movies is at this point. How many times can one actor make crappy ripoffs of one successful action movie and still remain a popular actor?
Evidently the answer is ALOT.
Take 2, Taken 3, Unknown, Non-Stop, Run All Night, The Commuter, Cold Pursuit, Honest Thief and The Marksman all attest to the fact that there’s a large market for mid-tier crappy action films starring Liam Neeson. Considering he’s currently shooting two more right now, it remains to be seen just how many of these films can be successful.
It’s a shame too. These paycheck jobs are wasting time and money that could be used better with one of our best living actors.
Regardless, I did see The Marksman last weekend. It was the only new movie opening at my local socially distanced movie theater that I hadn’t seen. Having been a few days since I saw the film, I’m struggling to put metaphorical pen to paper on this review. The film is such an empty non-presence that it’s hard to describe.
What’s new about this film? What hasn’t been done before? What about the way it’s shot advances the medium or takes advantage of Neeson’s talent in a new way?
Usually I can write my way out of reviews like this by talking about the genre or the history of the filmmakers involved but I’m struggling to do that. I’ve written and talked about numerous Liam Neeson films before. What else is there to say besides calling it another inoffensive Taken ripoff like Honest Thief, The Commuter, Run All Night, etc.
I guess there’s something to the story that’s mildly transgressive. The film is another in the long line of recent “Elderly White guy escorts a young protege to safety” stories epitomized by the likes of The Last of Us, The Last Jedi, Star Trek: Picard and Logan. There’s always something mildly transgressive about stories like these. They’re last-hurrah stories about closing the stories of old white hero archetypes to make way for the new generation of women heroes and stories of people of color.
Usually stories like these exist to let older actors have one more story with their most beloved characters but the “ushering in the new generation” aspect gives these stories a weird tinge. It’s almost like the studios are saying “we’re giving you one more story with the characters you like before we move on to more diverse stories in the coming decades.
Maybe that’s a good thing or maybe it’s alittle creepy. It depends on how woke/red pilled you are.
The Marksman definitely feels like that kind of story but doesn’t have much coherent to say about it’s ideas outside of that. Our lead character is a recently widowed Vietnam veteran who works as a cattle ranchers on the Arizona-Mexico border. When he’s not herding cattle, Jim likes driving along the border and reporting illegal alien crossings to ICE.
When he discovers a young boy and his mom being chased by the cartel, he ends up realizing that the only way to save the boy’s life is to personally traffic the kid to Chicago to give him a new life in America. In order to do this, he burns all of his bridges and decides to give everything to protect this boy.
You could read the film mildly as a kind of redemption story for an illegal alien hunter but the film isn’t saying anything that coherent. Illegal immigration is a complex issue with vehement and radical critics on both sides of the aisle. Some people want to keep all immigrants out and other people want to abolish any form of law enforcement mechanisms to protect the poor and downtrodden.
The film doesn’t fully portray the issue one way or the other. Immigrants are both hapless victims and sociopathic cartel members. Customs enforcement is treated like well intentioned bureaucrats and honorable police officers.
The film can’t be called “nuanced” if only because it isn’t clearly articulations a stance or a moral vision. Take our lead as an example: When we meet Jim, he’s down on his luck and struggling to pay off his rent. The film is asking us to sympathize for him in between the scenes where he’s protecting the border. You could read the story arc as a good man learning to empathize with people seeking a better life but his death seems like an unnecessary way to end a story about coming together and learning about a new culture.
Logan told a very similar story to this and it understood that the story it was telling was found in it’s atmosphere and the way mutants are treated in this dystopian near-future society. The Wolverine died so that the last generation of surviving mutants could live.
The Marksman is neither interesting enough to be radical or coherent enough to say something about illegal immigration or xenophobia. It’s not a story about the replacement of white stories by the stories of people of color. It’s not a story about cultural integration. It neither panders to conservatives nor castigates them.
It’s just a boring road trip movie about fighting the cartel.