‘The Marksman’ Blu-Ray Review – Neeson Offers Up More Of The Same In Agreeable, Predictable Action Thriller

Liam Neeson is in the stage of his career where he is still spry enough to take down a group of bad guys, but not quite youthful enough to do anything too involved. It was only a mere few months ago that Neeson was once again leaning into his status as an action hero with his restrained turn in Honest Thief. In his newest film The Marksman, Neeson double down on the docile gentleman schtick and goes full reluctant protector to a young boy who is in major trouble. It is a role that Neeson could do in his sleep, and there are only a few moments where it feels like he might be attempting to do so. This dramatic thriller follows the path of least resistance as it checks all of the boxes that one would expect from a story such as this one. Neeson plays former Marine sharpshooter Jim Hanson, who just so happens to keep an eye on the border for his border patrol officer step-daughter Sarah (Katheryn Winnick, Vikings). The movie mostly sidesteps any particular stance on the treatment of illegal immigrants for maximum audience appeal. Jim is a bit of a tortured soul, but he is about be given an unexpected purpose in life. 

One day Jim spots a young migrant woman, Rosa (Teresa Ruiz), and her 11-year-old son Miguel (Jacob Perez) as they are desperately trying to make their way across the border. What Jim does not know is that the two are on the run from a Mexican cartel who are hot on their tail. Once they show up moments later, things escalate quickly leaving one of the cartel members dead along with Rosa. Jim has killed the brother of the bloodthirsty Mauricio (Juan Pablo Raba, Narcos), which opens up a whole new world of vengeance that is looking to rain down on Jim. While Miguel is in custody, Jim becomes fixated on a promise he made to Rosa as she was dying to keep him safe. With word that the authorities are about to send Miguel back to Mexico where a near-certain death sentence awaits him, Jim takes it upon himself to abscond with the boy and deliver him to family in Chicago. The time on the road will lead to a shifting dynamic in the relationship between Jim and Miguel as they are being hunted down by the tenacious cartel members. 

Without a doubt, the best part of this particular film is the burgeoning paternalistic relationship between Jim and Miguel. At the onset of the film, Jim has a dark cloud following him after the death of his wife to cancer. He is not really keeping himself or his life in order, and the only thing that really seems to bring him joy is his loyal dog. Miguel is the middle of a chaotic situation due to the misdeeds of his family members. Under normal circumstances, he is a really thoughtful and caring young man who likely has a bright future ahead of him despite his economic circumstances. At this moment, the two need one another. Jim may be a bit of a curmudgeon, but he has the deadly skills to keep his new young companion safe. What Jim needs is a little more difficult to highlight, but a general sense of purpose and goodness in his life is a good overarching catch-all. Both the veteran Neeson and newcomer Perez bring a heartwarming believability to this dynamic that keeps the film satisfying for an audience. 

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The actual narrative conflict of the film is less interesting in the end. There is never a chance that the story will end up anywhere except in a final confrontation that will have a sizable body count. Jim chooses to fight from a distance for the most part as he takes out the bad guys with his sharpshooting skills. This approach is satisfying and makes sense for the character, but it also shines a light on Neeson’s age and inability to continue down this path for the rest of his career. The movie needed even more of the interpersonal moments with Miguel to make it more unique, but there needs to be enough action to please the masses. The Marksman is a perfectly inconsequential film that you might enjoy while you are watching but will quickly leave your brain the moment you have walked away from it. Neeson is milking every ounce of his charm until audiences no longer turn up to purchase what he is selling. I love him as much as anyone, but his talents could be put to so much better use if he had the inclination. 

Video Quality

The Marksman comes to Blu-Ray in a stunning 1080p presentation in its 2:39.1 OAR that truly wows in high definition. The clarity throughout is truly outstanding with subtle flourishes of the locations and clothing coming through crystal clear. Color saturation is great with the moody, dusty color palette consistently represented throughout. Skin tones are natural, although a lot of exposed skin is covered in all manner of cuts and bruises. The environments mostly stick to vast expanses of nature with the occasional market or police station interior, the latter of which provides a lot of opportunity for fine detail in the production design. Black levels are pretty deep and do not fall victim to any noticeable digital noise or errors of the sort. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has provided a transfer up to the level of excellence you would want from a new release. 

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Audio Quality

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track provides a perfectly agreeable if not a knockout audio presentation. There is pretty consistent environmental activity in these sparsely populated, vast environments, which gives ample opportunity to engage the speakers. This film is not an all-out action fest like some Neeson movies, but there are some beat downs and gunshots that lack the punch you might want when they do pop up. Dialogue comes through clearly and never gets stepped on by any sound effects or the score. All of the sounds have an accurate sense of direction within the mix with noises such as footsteps moving around the speakers in compelling ways. The low end is rarely put to the test throughout, opting to rather give subtle supplemental texture for the majority of the time. This mix is pleasingly immersive but not an all-out powerhouse. It gets the job done well enough. 

Special Features

  • The Making of The Marksman: An eight-minute promotional featurette in which the cast and crew (sans Neeson) discuss the project from a storytelling perspective, dive into what it was like working with Neeson, explore the supporting characters and directorial style of the film and more. Nothing too in depth, but decent enough. 

 

Final Thoughts

The Marksman never covers any new ground in the action genre, but Liam Neeson is a pleasant enough performer to elevate the material to watchable. The narrative follows the typical action formula to the letter, which makes this a difficult recommendation to anyone but those looking for mindless, formulaic content. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has given this film a Blu-Ray that serves the film well in the A/V department along with one frothy special feature. Liam Neeson has been occupying this space for quite a while, and it feels past time to tackle more projects worthy of his talent. 

The Marksman is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital. 

Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.

Disclaimer: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.

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