By John Mulderig | Catholic News Service
NEW YORK (CNS) — Sound basic values and obvious good intentions underlie “The Marksman” (Open Road). But there’s a sketchy feel to director and co-writer Robert Lorenz’s action drama and it ultimately fails to make much of an impression.
Liam Neeson plays Jim Hanson, the gruff sharpshooter of the title. An ex-Marine who served in Vietnam, Jim has fallen on hard times. Having lost his wife to cancer, he’s now facing eviction from his cattle ranch on the Arizona-Mexico border primarily because of her ruinously expensive medical bills.
Early scenes show us that Jim takes a tough but humane stance in interacting with those who attempt to enter the United States without legal papers. In this, he cooperates with his closest remaining relative, his stepdaughter Sarah (Katheryn Winnick), an immigration officer.
So when Jim comes across mother and son Rosa (Teresa Ruiz) and Miguel (Jacob Perez) who have crossed onto his property, he’s inclined to turn them in to the authorities. As viewers already know, however, the duo is being chased by the minions of a drug cartel led by a heavy called Mauricio (Juan Pablo Raba). Miguel’s uncle betrayed the gang, and they’re out for vengeance.
Rosa soon perishes in a confrontation with the baddies and, as she lay dying, begs Jim to transport preteen Miguel to safety with relatives in Chicago, offering him a cache of money purloined from the narcotics dealers as a reward. Recognizing that Miguel will be doomed if left in the custody of the government bureaucracy, Jim reluctantly takes the lad under his wing and sets out for the Windy City.
There’s an unspoken appeal for reconciliation in the script, on which Lorenz collaborated with Chris Charles and Danny Kravitz, as semi-deplorable Jim, the embodiment of a downtrodden white guy, finds the better angels of his nature summoned forth by the plight in which Miguel finds himself. And there’s a generally pacific, specifically anti-revenge message to offset the vague vigilantism of Jim’s mission.
Catholic imagery puts in an occasional appearance as well as the two travelers bond. Miguel prizes his mom’s rosary and yearns to have a funeral Mass for her. Yet when Jim stops at a church long enough to have some semblance of a service held, it’s clear that, although the clergyman whose help he enlists is meant to be a priest, the house of worship over which he presides is unmistakably Protestant.
At one point, Jim responds to Miguel’s mention of heaven by denying the existence of an afterlife. It’s clear, however, that the audience is meant to agree with Miguel on this subject. A late plot development that sees a character taking his own life, by contrast, is morally murky if analyzed at all closely.
There are certainly worse ways to pass an hour and three-quarters than by watching this largely inoffensive movie. But, if given the choice, viewers should opt for the similarly plotted — and much more effective — “News of the World.”
The film contains considerable stylized violence, some gory sights, a suicide, a few uses of profanity, a couple of milder oaths, at least one rough term and several crude and crass expressions. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.