BAXTER — Liam Neeson doesn’t let age slow him down or hold him back from throwing a punch or two in his latest action thriller “The Marksman.”

The movie was released last month and was No. 1 at the box office for the first few weeks after it came out and remains popular based on the appeal of the late-in-life action star.

Neeson plays Jim Hanson, a hardscrabble rancher living along the Arizona-Mexico border who reports illegal alien crossings when he’s not shooting wild animals praying on his livestock.

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The widower still grieves for his wife while attempting to eke out a living along an isolated and desolate stretch only popular for its numerous sightings of illegal aliens.

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Faced with eviction from the bank after his late wife’s cancer-related medical expenses, the gruff former Marine begins to drink to excess in an attempt to drown his sorrows.

“I don’t scare easy,” Hanson says at one point in the movie but he realizes it will take more than a rifle to solve all of his problems.

A rifle rests on top of a gun case. Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash.com
A rifle rests on top of a gun case. Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash.com

Things only get more complicated when a young mother and her son who are on the run from a vicious Mexican drug cartel unexpectedly come across Hanson among the unforgiving terrain.

Hanson is not unsympathetic to the plight of immigrants attempting to make a better life for themselves but reports them to U.S. border patrol to be picked up for their health and safety.

Neeson’s Southern accent as Hanson is not terribly convincing in the film, but the 6-foot-4-inch Irish actor with his gravelly voice still cuts an imposing figure even in his late 60s.

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The mother is mortally wounded in the confrontation between Hanson and the men the cartel has tasked to retrieve the boy and his mom after Hanson refuses to turn them over.

Guilt-ridden that had he not stopped the pair on their dangerous trek through barren lands they may still be alive, Hanson agrees to the mom’s dying wish he look after the 11-year-old boy.

Hanson and the now orphan go on the run on a perilous road trip to reunite the child with his remaining relatives in Chicago, but the cartel’s enforcers are in hot pursuit in the PG-13 film.

"The Marksman" was released in January in theaters like the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter. It stars Liam Neeson as a reluctant chaperone who protects an orphaned boy against the Mexican drug cartel. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch
"The Marksman" was released in January in theaters like the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter. It stars Liam Neeson as a reluctant chaperone who protects an orphaned boy against the Mexican drug cartel. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

Director Robert Lorenz takes a restrained approach to the action sequences and armed confrontations between the reluctant hero and the bad guys in the nearly two-hour movie.

Lorenz made his directorial debut with 2012’s “Trouble with the Curve” starring another minimalist actor-director Clint Eastwood but has been nominated for an Oscar as a producer.

The migrant boy and the veteran in “The Marksman” forge an unlikely friendship as they overcome their differences and try to elude the Mexican assassins hot on their trail.

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Complicating matters is Hanson’s stepdaughter Sarah Pennington, a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent played by Katheryn Winnick, who begs Hanson to turn himself and the boy in.

But encounters with corrupt law enforcement officials in the U.S. during the perilous journey convinces Hanson otherwise and he vows to protect the boy at great personal cost.

One of the best scenes in “The Marksman” is a quieter one during which Hanson arranges along their way for a pastor to conduct a private ceremony for the distraught child’s late mother.

Hanson doesn’t divulge the details of his and the boy’s relationship to the man of the cloth; the pastor tells Hanson, who has a haunted look in his eyes, “She must’ve had a lot of faith in you.”

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“The Marksman” was the second feature film from Open Road starring Neeson to top the box office during the coronavirus pandemic after “Honest Thief,” which was released in October.

“The Marksman” played best in the South, with men making up 57% of the audience and 72% of those seeing it being over the age of 25, according to Deadline, an online news site.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bdfilmforum.