Grumpy, old man has to reluctantly take care of a child in order to protect him from great dangers – the plot of THE MARKSMAN – THE SNIPER sounds familiar. The characterization of Liam Neeson as an aging naval officer even more so. The result of these tried and tested ingredients is at least solid. We reveal more about this in our review.
OT: The Marksman (USA 2021)
Former Marine officer and sniper Jim Hanson (Liam Neeson) has retreated to a remote ranch in the Arizona border region to spend his twilight years. But these plans are thwarted by the eleven-year-old migrant boy Miguel (Jacob Perez), who is picked up at the border along with his mother Rosa (Teresa Ruiz) by members of a brutal drug cartel. Rosa is killed in a shootout. But in the last seconds of her life she is able to ask Jim, who witnesses the attack, to bring her son to her family in Chicago and thus to safety. Jim and Miguel then defy the law enforcement authorities and embark on a long and arduous journey during which the two gradually become friends. But the cartel’s assassins have long been hot on the heels of the unlikely duo…
For years, Liam Neeson, who was nominated for an Oscar in 1994, has (almost) exclusively made films in the “If you know one, you know them all” category. In it, he slips into the role of action hero as a kind of successor to Bruce Willis and Co. in order to put himself, sometimes more, sometimes less reluctantly, in the line of fire as a one-man world-saving squad. Sometimes he has to travel around the world to free his daughter from the clutches of dangerous kidnappers (“96 Hours”), other times, as a bank robber willing to get out, he has to deal with corrupt cops (“Honest Thief”) who make his life difficult want to dispute stolen loot. The basic ingredients of such films are always the same: Liam Neeson is still tough and trigger-happy even in his old age (even though his almost 70 years have already been noticed a few times recently) and he brings evil down until the end of the film. And while it was recently strongly noticed that an actor with a similar talent as Bruce Willis, the “Die Hard” star, only shoots the numerous direct-to-DVD productions based on a similar successful formula for the money and with a correspondingly uninterested visage trudges through his films, Neeson’s films are not only still in theaters, the Irish-born man still seems committed. His latest effort, “The Marksman” not only follows the same Liam Neeson action film style, but is also very reminiscent of an Oscar nominee from this year: Paul Greengrass’ “Neues aus der Welt”.
Liam Neeson takes on the role of a sniper in “The Marksman”.
Admittedly, the neo-Western that was parked on Netflix at the beginning of the year and starred Tom Hanks and Oscar nominee Helena Zengel was also reminiscent of numerous other films in terms of its premise. For the cinema, an old man and a child often entered into a partnership of convenience against their will, which over time developed into a kind of friendship. From “Léon – The Professional” to “Wasabi – A Bull in Japan” (both with Jean Reno, by the way) to “Kick-Ass”, this constellation of characters has already proven itself many times – and varied according to the genre. In this respect, it would be very presumptuous to credit “The Marksman” author Robert Lorenz (“Back in the Game”), accusing Danny Kravitz and Chris Charles of borrowing from Greengrass’ work when developing their script; Which in turn was also inspired by various other genre pieces. However, there is no getting around the association. Unlike “Neues aus der Welt”, “The Marksman” takes place in the present and not in the Wild West of the 19th century. Nevertheless, both films are about a conscientious loner who, after witnessing a crime, ensures that an orphaned child is brought to safety. And so this well-known constellation of characters is faced with a road trip in which various obstacles not only bring the unlikely duo together, but also endanger their lives more than once. So far, so known.
“In front of the well-known constellation of characters lies a road trip on which various obstacles not only bring the unlikely duo together, but also endanger their lives more than once. So far, so known.”
Director and co-author Robert Lorenz doesn’t vary this premise too much, but instead plays it safe for almost 110 minutes of film. “The Marksman – The Sniper” can be counted out dramaturgically from the beginning. From the brief introduction of protagonist Jim as a rough-and-tumble loner to the superficial characterization of the villains, about whom we don’t learn anything more than that they are members of a Mexican drug cartel and therefore look and act exactly the way you imagine such people, to to detailed story beats as this dangerous road trip continues (including a hotel stay, during which Jim and his protégé become friends through long, intimate conversations), “The Marksman” follows predictable lines most of the time. Nevertheless, the handling of a particularly elementary component of such a story is pleasing: the connection between Jim and Miguel. Contrary to what has often been seen, the former naval officer, despite his hard shell, is nowhere near as reluctant towards his protégé as one would expect from such a story. Instead, Jim makes it clear from the start how conscientiously he wants to deal with this situation and stand by the helpless Miguel. It is correspondingly pleasant that the further interaction between the two characters is not characterized by the fact that the two have to try to overcome differences in order to get closer to each other. It’s more about the two getting to know each other authentically in order to overcome certain natural distances – resulting from different ages and different living conditions.
Jim has only one job: bring the orphan Miguel (Jacob Perez) home safely.
The lifelike interaction between Liam Neeson and newcomer Jacob Perez means that the scenes in which “The Marksman” depicts the friendship between the two are particularly pleasing. But unfortunately these sequences only make up a fraction of the entire running time. After all, the film is (also) another entry in Liam Neeson’s action film resume. On their road trip from Arizona to Chicago, Jim is called upon several times to be what he was before he retired: a sniper. But if you’re hoping for particularly creative action scenes that are different than usual due to Jim’s profession, you might be disappointed. Instead, you see the protagonist here primarily with a rifle instead of – as usual – shooting around with a revolver. Otherwise, the structure, which sometimes consists of chases, sometimes shoot-outs and the tried and tested blackmail scenarios, is largely unspectacular. Or better: routine. Despite the lack of variance, “The Marksman” impresses with its successful craftsmanship. Cinematographer Mark Patten (“Silence”) and his editor Luis Carballer (“The Infiltrator”) provide the necessary overview even in the most hectic scenes. The sparing use of computer effects also gives the generally very crisp action scenes an appealing feel. Among the many comparable Liam Neeson vehicles in recent years, there have certainly been more varied candidates, but there have also been plenty that were significantly worse directed.
“Among the many comparable Liam Neeson vehicles in recent years, there have certainly been more varied candidates, but there have also been plenty that were significantly worse staged.”
Conclusion: “The Marksman – The Sniper” combines well-known action and Liam Neeson film motifs. The result is a rock-solid mix of a beautifully staged good-versus-evil thriller and a likeable “two strangers become friends” road movie.
“The Marksman” is scheduled to hit USA cinemas this year.