Hitting The Mark

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Liam Neeson stars as Jim in director Robert Lorenz's THE MARKSMAN, an Open Road Films / Briarcliff Entertainment release. Courtesy of Open Road Films / Briarcliff Entertainment

By Paul Hall

The border towns in Arizona have dealt firsthand with the impact of illegal border crossings into the United States. Although a barrier exists, even abutting private property, there still are flaws in the system and people illegally cross into the United States. The people on both sides of the border are impacted by these crossings, and some of them are just a bit different than the norm. The Marksman tells the story of one man who is put into a different situation than anything else he has dealt with before.

Jim (Liam Neeson) has a farm in Arizona on the border between the United States and Mexico. Financially in distress, he has also been coping with the recent loss of his wife and is just trying to keep his farm afloat. He regularly finds illegal aliens (IAs) crossing the border into his land and turns them over to Sarah (Katheryn Winnick) at the United States Border Patrol.

Crossings are commonplace to Jim, but one day turns into something different. A young woman and her son dive through a hole in the fence to find Jim and he proceeds to get ready to turn them over to the authorities, when three men on the Mexican side arrive and a discussion quickly escalates into a gun battle.

As Jim prepares to move on from the situation, he gets quickly dragged back into the matter and starts a trip to Chicago to take the boy (Jacob Perez) to his family. But the journey is fraught with peril as cartel member Mauricio (Juan Pablo Raba) will do anything to track down the boy. Jim will have to be careful who he trusts along the way as the cartel’s influence runs deep.

Neeson has found a niche with revenge action films in recent years, but this is bigger than a revenge film. Neeson delivers a deeper performance than most of his roles in this film that feels ripped from the headlines. The thing that makes Neeson’s performance and his role as Jim so good is that he is real. A real person with real concerns, confronting them differently than he ever has before.

While some of the story is quite rudimentary and there are moments that drag along the way, it still works. The film is carried by Neeson and that is a good thing. Sure, he’s fighting back against the bad guys, but it is bigger than that. Neeson’s character is doing what he believes is right, even if it puts himself in danger. And that is the refreshing aspect of the film and the part that resonated with me.

The idea that all rules are rules obviously features shades of gray. People make judgments on altering the game as they play, and that can be an amazing force in drive, motivation and action. This film hits the emotional mark with real people and events.

Paul’s Grade: B-

The Marksman
Rated PG-13
Stars: Liam Neeson, Katheryn Winnick, Juan Pablo Raba, Jacob Perez
Director: Robert Lorenz