★★★

An Arizona rancher comes to a crossroads when he happens upon a Mexican woman and her son desperately trying to cross into the United States and escape their dangerous plight in The Marksman, a dramatic thriller directed by Robert Lorenz (Trouble with the Curve). A solid script and a credible cast help offset the films’ slow points and head-scratching moments.

Hard times have fallen upon former marine Jim Hanson (Liam Neeson), a recent widower who is on the verge of losing his home. As he struggles to make ends meet and laments an unfair life, he drives along the border one afternoon and slams on his breaks when a young Mexican boy named Miguel (Jacob Perez) runs across the road in front of him. The young boy and his mother Rosa (Teresa Ruiz) have climbed through an opening in the border fence, fleeing a cartel that is pursuing them following a family member’s theft. After a shootout, Jim hurries the frightened asylum seekers into his truck and attempts to drive them to safety, but when Rosa is discovered to be critically wounded, a mother’s dying wish coupled with the discovery of cartel money send Jim on a trip to the Midwest, in an attempt to get Miguel to safety; that is, if Jim can withstand pressure to return the boy to government authorities and navigate past a Mexican cartel that is bloodthirsty and after revenge.

In addition to directing, Lorenz joins Chris Charles and Danny Kravitz in authoring a dependable and realistic script that gels well with satisfactory acting from both the main cast and bit roles. Of significant note is Neeson’s steady performance in a more dramatic role as well as the young Perez who is more than credible. Even more impressive is Juan Pablo Raba’s portrayal of the determined and violent Maurico. The story is somewhat compelling as a rancher seeks to avoid encroaching danger on his way to bring a boy to safety. However, the story hits a bit of a traffic jam halfway through, and the film takes a puzzling turn when money is literally burned by two people in great financial need. As unrealistic as that may be, it is just as surprising to see a trained marine and expert marksman choose to shoot a dazed and injured junior member of the cartel instead of the ultra-dangerous cartel leader on his first discharge. Despite this, and questions unanswered involving the FBI’s search and a second cell of the cartel appearing late in the adventure, the film still somehow lands on its feet. This is due to a powerful story that attaches the audience to the main protagonists who learn quite a bit about each other along the way.

The Marksman starts out in an intriguing manner, pulling in the viewers’ attention with drama on both sides of the border. However, a lull in the story and puzzling choices in the direction detract from a mostly well-written script and a film with capable acting. While the film is not totally on the mark, it is close enough to take a look.