Liam Neeson's Action Thriller 'The Marksman' Misses Its Target

The 'Taken' star is an odd fit for this neo-western that feels like a Clint Eastwood movie without Clint Eastwood.

Open Road Films/Briarcliff Entertainment
Open Road Films/Briarcliff Entertainment
Open Road Films/Briarcliff Entertainment

How long can Liam Neeson’s grizzled reign as Hollywood’s most in-demand older action hero last? In a recent interview, the 68-year-old Taken star suggested his days of dismantling murderous henchmen, rescuing his kidnapped family members, and deploying his “special set of skills” might be drawing to a close. “There’s a couple in the pipeline and, then I think that will probably be it,” he told Entertainment Tonight. His ass-kicking twilight years are upon us, so it makes sense that his typically high-octane thrillers might grow more somber and self-reflective.

At least, that’s the feeling you’ll get while watching the sturdy-yet-weary The Marksman, a Neeson-led neo-Western that debuted in theaters over the weekend and knocked Wonder Woman 1984 from the top of the meager COVID-era box office chart. Tasked with playing Jim, a retired Marine-turned rancher with a dearly departed wife and a steadily maintained drinking regiment, the Irish-born actor brings the expected gravitas and charisma to the role. The character’s painstakingly telegraphed emotional journey, from closed-off crank to selfless avenger, and his deadly mission, which involves protecting a young boy named Miguel (Jacob Perez) from violent cartel members after his mother is killed in a shootout, are within Neeson’s thematic wheelhouse. But he looks a little out of place wearing a cowboy hat and squinting at the dusty Arizona landscape. On a stylistic level, it’s an odd fit. The character’s grumpiness and the story’s elegiac tone brings to mind Clint Eastwood, who made an idiosyncratic border drama, The Mule, in 2018 and has been deconstructing the mythology of the aging gunslinger since at least 1992’s Unforgiven. This is not just a random case of Eastwood uncanny valley-dom, either. The Marksman’s director and co-writer Robert Lorenz made his directorial debut with 2012’s Eastwood vehicle Trouble With the Curve, and he produced about a dozen Eastwood movies before that. At 90 years old, Eastwood might have aged out of The Marksman-or, in all likelihood, he’s too busy shooting his next project-but his star persona lingers over the movie like a strong musk. (A scene from Hang ‘Em High even pops up on the TV in a motel at one point in a hat-tipping moment.)

The inevitable comparisons to better Eastwood movies-my mind drifted to 1993’s great outlaw-and-kid road-trip drama A Perfect World while watching-aren’t the only problems The Marksman must contend with. The main villain, an obsessive gang leader (Juan Pablo Raba), lacks depth or specificity, and a side plot involving Jim’s stepdaughter (Katheryn Winnick), a put-upon Border Patrol agent, is underdeveloped. The core relationship between Jim and Miguel can be sweet and poignant, but their journey to Chicago, where Miguel has family waiting for him, is so plodding that it drains the movie of suspense or tension. When action does occur, it’s mostly uninspired bursts of gunplay. 

On the surface, it’s easy to see what potentially drew Neeson to the material. While the role lets him find notes of grief and perseverance to play, the immigrant-on-the-run setup might feel like it’s “saying something” or “speaking to the moment.” The Marksman is the latest in a string of recent action movies that frame the Mexico-United States border as a fraught psychic terrain for America’s aging white male warrior class. (Rambo: Last Blood might be the low point of this not exactly dignified micro-genre.) Unfortunately, these movies rarely display much curiosity about the struggles of the other characters or the nuances of the region. They’re often singularly focussed on redemption, which is too bad. Hanging up one’s spurs doesn’t have to be such a mechanical act. Need help finding something to watch? Sign up here for our weekly Streamail newsletter to get streaming recommendations delivered straight to your inbox.

Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He’s on Twitter @danielvjackson.


Where to Celebrate Lunar New Year 2023 in Australia

And what it means to be in the year of the Rabbit.

where to celebrate lunar new year australia

Starting with the new moon on Sunday, January 22, this Lunar New Year ushers in the year of the Rabbit. We’ve put together a guide on celebrating the Lunar New Year in Australia.

What is special about the year of the Rabbit?

As you might know, each year has an animal sign in the Chinese Zodiac, which is based on the moon and has a 12-year cycle. This year, we celebrate the year of the rabbit, known to be the luckiest out of all twelve animals. It symbolises mercy, elegance, and beauty.

What celebrations are taking place and how can I get involved?

There are plenty of festivals happening all around the country which you can get involved with. Here they are per state.

New South Wales

Darling Harbour Fireworks
When: Every year, Sydney puts on a fireworks show, and this year, you can catch it on January 28 and February 4 at 9 pm in Darling Harbour.

Dragon Boat Races
When: Witness three days of dragon boat races and entertainment on Cockle Bay to usher in the Lunar New Year. The races will commence on January 27 and finish on January 29.

Lion Dances
When: Catch a traditional Lion Dance moving to the beat of a vigorous drum bringing good luck and fortune for the Lunar New Year. The dance performances will happen across Darling Harbour on Saturday, January 21, Sunday, January 22, and Sunday, February 4 and 5, around 6 pm and 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at Cirrus Dining
When: Barangaroo’s waterfront seafood restaurant, Cirrus, is celebrating the Year of the Rabbit with a special feast menu. Cirrus’ LNY menu is $128pp with optional wine pairing and is available from Saturday, January 21, to Sunday, February 5.

Auntie Philter
When: Hello Auntie’s owner and executive chef, Cuong Nguyen will be dishing out some of the most classic Vietnamese street foods with his mum, Linda. All of Philter’s favourites will be on offer, as well as Raspberry Pash Beer Slushies and other cocktails being served at the Philter Brewing rooftop bar on Sunday, January 22 and Sunday, January 29.


Lunar New Year Festival
When: Ring in the Lunar New Year with food, music, arts, and more on Sunday, January 22, from 10 am to 9 pm.

Lunar New Year at the National Gallery of Victoria
When: Celebrate the year of the rabbit at the National Gallery of Victoria’s festival of art, food, and art-making activities for everyone from 10 am-5 pm.


BriAsia Festival
When: From February 1-19, Brisbane will come alive with performances, including lion dances and martial arts displays. There will be street food, workshops, comedy and more.

South Australia

Chinatown Adelaide Street Party
When: Adelaide is set to hose a fun-filled day celebrating the Chinese New Year on Saturday, January 28, from 12 pm to 9 pm.

Western Australia

Crown Perth
When: Across January and February, Crown Perth hosts free live entertainment, including colourful lion dances, roving mascots, and drumming performances. The restaurants will also throw banquets and menus dedicated to the Lunar New Year.

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