A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Marksman is an action/thriller starring Liam Neeson as a White man who agrees to transport an 11-year-old Mexican immigrant from Arizona to Chicago while pursued by members of a killer cartel. It's well-made, but cliches in the story and the oversimplified representation of characters of color (as well as the White savior elements of the plot) eventually sink it. Expect to see lots of guns and shooting, bloody wounds, stabbing, fighting, and animal corpses. A woman is shot and killed, and another is strangled. A dog is shot and killed offscreen. A boy is briefly in peril, and there's dialogue about a woman dying of cancer. Language is strong but infrequent, with one use of "f--k," plus "s--t," "ass," "hell," etc. The main character drinks in a few scenes and seems to get sleepy-drunk, but there are no other consequences.
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What's the story?
In THE MARKSMAN, former U.S. Marine Jim Hanson (Liam Neeson) is now a rancher living on the Arizona border and struggling with paying the bills after his late wife's long illness. He happens upon a young mother, Rosa (Teresa Ruiz), and her 11-year-old son, Miguel (Jacob Perez), crossing the border from Mexico. Rosa begs him not to call the border patrol because she and her son are being pursued by evil cartel leader Maurico (Juan Pablo Raba) in retaliation for Rosa's brother stealing a bagful of money. When Rosa is shot, she asks Jim to take Miguel to live with family in Chicago. Jim reluctantly agrees, over the objections of his step-daughter, Sarah (Katheryn Winnick). But first Jim must keep Miguel, and himself, safe from the villains pursuing them.
Is it any good?
Thanks to Robert Lorenz's smooth, simple direction and Neeson's appealing, sympathetic bond with young Perez, this action-thriller, which is steeped in cliché from top to bottom, very nearly gets by. Lorenz, a producer and/or assistant director on many Clint Eastwood movies, channels his mentor with The Marksman, using unhurried, classical storytelling and treating the creaky old material with care. Neeson's Jim Hanson is shown both with an American flag draped over his shoulder (as the bank tries to take his ranch away) and showing concern for an injured immigrant ... even as he calls border patrol.
Perez is a sweet kid who's positively portrayed, but too little time is spent on other characters of color, and the Mexican villains are crushingly one-note: They're depicted as pure evil with no humanity. Neeson is fine in his low-key role: Hanson is a good man at heart (like Tom Hanks' similar role in News of the World) who just happens to be handy with firearms. The actor's fans will be pleased with the traditional shootout ending, which is presented neatly and without cluttery shaky-cam or choppy editing. But even as The Marksman wraps up, it already starts to fade from memory.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Marksman's violence. Did it feel thrilling or shocking? How much is directed at women? At animals? How does that affect its impact on you?
How are immigrants and/or people of color depicted in the film? Did you notice any stereotypes? How do stereotypes counteract attempts at diverse representation?
How did you feel about the main character teaching the 11-year-old boy how to handle a gun?
What's the appeal of Neeson as an action hero? How is he different from other movie action heroes? Do you think his character here can be seen as representing the "White savior" cliche?
- In theaters: January 15, 2021
- On DVD or streaming: May 11, 2021
- Cast: Liam Neeson, Katheryn Winnick, Teresa Ruiz
- Director: Robert Lorenz
- Studio: Open Road Films
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: violence, some bloody images and brief strong language
- Last updated: May 13, 2021
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