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Review: Pulpy 'Marksman' Filled With Action, Suspense, and Lots of Thrills

by Michael  Cox
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday May 11, 2021
Review: Pulpy 'Marksman' Filled With Action, Suspense, and Lots of Thrills

The divisive nature of "The Marksman" begins with this action thriller's protagonist. Liam Neeson plays Jim Hanson, a surly American patriot and Vietnam War veteran living on the US/Mexican border. As a former Marine Corps sniper, he believes in a nation with a small government and a big wall. Having lost most of his livelihood and fortune paying for his deceased wife's medical bills, he now works to keep up a failing ranch and keep out illegal immigrants.

Right off the bat, he gets into a shootout with a Mexican drug cartel over a woman and young son, who are seeking refuge in the U.S. Hanson wants to deliver them to the Border Patrol, but a prominent gang leader, Mauricio (Juan Pablo Raba), knows they're carrying a lot of money. When the woman is fatally wounded, when Maurico's brother is killed, and when the government proves to be both apathetic and corrupt, Hanson must personally deliver the boy to safety while fleeing the vengeance of the cartel.

The white male savior who reluctantly helps a child travel across the country to a new home seems to be a popular theme this year, but whereas "News of the World" was nominated for Academy Awards, this film was largely panned by the critics. What's the difference?

Both films deal with the way white Americans interact with cultures outside of their colonial power, and both are essentially patriotic. But the cosmetic qualities of each of these neo-westerns point to one or the other side of the political spectrum. "News of the World" is a blue film, and this movie is essentially red.

The director of "The Marksman," Robert Lorenz, is no stranger to award nominations. He's mostly know for his work with Clint Eastwood on a number of his prominent films, including the three Best Picture nominees "Mystic River," "Letters from Iwo Jima," and "American Sniper."

Liam Neeson, on the other hand, is a multi-talented actor who has played a wide range of roles, but, of late, has mastered a certain kind of action hero, a character that, in movie after movie, carries the same stereotypical qualities. You watch one of these movies, and you know what you're going to get. The plot is a formula; the audience knows what's going to happen next; but we anxiously wait to see how it will happen. In the case of "The Marksman," watching the plot unfold is a pretty thrilling ride.

There's action, suspense, thrills, and a plot. It's pulpy, and it's not the smartest film in the world, but it's certainly not the worst, either. Neeson holds up to his predecessors, John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. And Lorenz knows just how to direct this kind of star. Truly smart audiences won't beat themselves up for enjoying this. The film's uniqueness and sophistication is manifest in its subtleties. You know the bad guy will be killed in the end. But who will pull the trigger? The little boy will be saved. But what will be lost in the process?

"The Marksman" comes to Blu-ray, with a special behind-the-scenes feature, May 11.

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