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The Marksman

⋆⋆ out of four stars

Rating: PG-13.

Where: Wide release.

Since 2008's "Taken," the "Liam Neeson thriller" has become a subgenre unto itself. Aggrieved fatherly types, Neeson's characters must turn to violence against assorted bad guys in various locales.

The widowed Jim Hanson (Neeson) spends his days minding a few cattle and calling in reports to the border patrol from his Arizona property, which is about to be auctioned off by the bank. When a Mexican woman and her son cross the border fence in front of his truck, it sets off a chain of events as he attempts to protect the boy from a vengeful Mexican drug cartel.

For a film titled "The Marksman," the actual marksmanship is not the focal point of the story. Jim is a whiskey-swilling Vietnam vet who only pulls out his rifle when absolutely necessary. It does become necessary when he takes young Miguel (Jacob Perez) on the road to Chicago, in hopes of delivering him to family. Jim's also intrigued by a satchel of stolen cash. But he's going to need his shooting skills if he and Miguel are going to outrun the cartel leaders in hot pursuit.

The plot is a standard-issue chase movie, with the vengeful Maurico (Juan Pablo Raba) on their tail. Along the way, man and child bond, forging a relationship beyond the task at hand.

This is a minor entry in the Neeson canon. Neeson remains eminently watchable, and as this tragic figure, he conveys the sorrow Jim carries with a palpable immediacy. Although "The Marksman" never finds its target (if it has one), Neeson's still got it.