The Marksman (2021)

Rating: C- (after one and a half bottles of good red wine)

Dir: Robert Lorenz
Star: Liam Neeson, Katheryn Winnick, Juan Pablo Raba, Teresa Ruiz

The pitch :- I’ve had a brilliant idea!  I’m thinking Taken and Sicario, but, and this is the clever part yeah… flip them both 180-degrees, and have Liam Neeson as the central player!?  Yeah!!  Clever right?  It’s like jazz, man!  Yeah!!  Clever!!!  Nice!!!!  Yeah?

Clever?  No.  Nice?  No.  Jazz?  Maybe.  If it was scat.

The film looks good.  The cinematography, colour palette, pace and tone at the start is close to Hell or High Water (2016 – a very good B-flick) and in so doing it’s setting a good tone, and if that was the groove/vibe that they had adopted then we might have had a much better film.  But.  They didn’t.  Sadly it seems that they simply wanted to fuse Taken and Sicario, limit any actual creativity and in the process miss any reasonable alternate (aka original/enjoyable) outcomes.  Instead, what we end up with is dull, predictable, wafer-thin and borderline incoherent with regard to the central (and arguably only) character.

Look, it’s not a bad film, but, it just doesn’t know what it wants to be and as a result ends up being nothing much at all.  It is one of those films that can comfortably and easily occupy an afternoon or evening, and happily so, and yet also be a film that 10 minutes after watching you’ll be scrabbling to remember anything that happened.  To restate, it’s not a bad film.  It’s just that it’s not engaging nor exciting, and next week you could watch it again and think that it seems vaguely like some other film, book or magazine article that you had seen or heard about or read before.

It is set at least initially on the American side of the Mexican border with that familiar brown, fawn, taupe, tanned scrub-land colour scheme richly evident, and some of that cinematography is stunning.  Liam is a farmer struggling with overdue bank payments, when unexpectedly and unwelcomely along comes a big fat ‘pay-day’.  What will this stoic, not-so-sober and law-abiding man do?  Well, on this matter the script is very uneven, and almost incoherent.

Liam Neeson is solid in his role, readily channelling his inner Bryan Mills, although sadly he is also badly, horrifically (almost hilariously) miscast – was there really no American-sounding actor who could have taken his role?  It turns out that Liam playing Liam really isn’t a good fit for the role.  On the plus and endearing side he has chosen the Tommy Lee Jones approach of simply ageing, looking and being his age, and for that he deserves a good nod of genuine and affectionate fond respect.  Alas he is unconvincing in this role in a manner that was (even with disbelief fully suspended) embarrassingly bad – it’s not his fault, it’s just that he should never have been cast in the role.  He is simply unbelievable in it, and I ended up not really knowing who he was. 

The other actors… erm… yeah… whoever they were… well none of them really register, except perhaps his sheepdog, who is the second strongest character.  And yeah there were some other people in other roles.  Uhmm, some of them did things about things that were erm, something.  Oh and erm… well… no… sorry… I’ve no idea…. forgive me… I saw it two hours ago, so how could I possibly recall…  and in hindsight I am left wondering if too much of the budget went on hiring Liam for a role that really didn’t suit him.

The start of the film’s look-and-feel even held echoes of Tremors (1990), which is an almost perfect B-movie that you will remember having watched.  And that’s the nub of this film.  Nothing about it stands out – to put this into context I savagely edited down my review of the last Bond movie, whereas I have padded this one.  The plot?  It’s pointless to recount, simply it is Sicario and Taken, both in parallel and reverse, riffle-shuffled.  Not that it matters, as you really won’t remember anything about it, and nor should you.

The bottom line is that if I was on a long (long) (very long) (okay, very very very very long) flight and had exhausted all other options, including an alcohol induced coma, then this film would be kinda okay.  If, on the other hand, I had washing to do, or plates to clean… or some vacuuming… or dusting… or paint to watch aging… well…

As a side note:  the film is called The Marksman, which brings to mind all sorts of completely reasonable expectations that won’t be met nor even alluded to, and having sat through it I would have titled it Erm Yeah Whatever, or perhaps Whoops I Missed Again (Sorry!).

Coda:  So, given how I have damned it with (almost zero) very faint praise, why is it still a C-?  Well, because it is still a tidy, neat, competent, not over-long film that doesn’t drag or require too much of the viewer and is ultimately banally okay.  Simply put, it’s not bad, and… errm…  …sorry, what was I writing about…?