Shooter Review

Mar 23, 2007 | 6:04am EDT

For 15 minutes or so there is an actual story in Shooter--which to the film's credit  is about 15 minutes more than expected. Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) is a former Marine scout-sniper dynamo who lost his best friend/spotter (the legally troubled Lane Garrison) three years earlier in combat in Ethiopia for which he ultimately holds the government accountable. Presently he shuns his once-beloved government and lives in seclusion in the mountains until a retired colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover) manages to track him down. He talks Swagger into helping foil an assassination attempt on the president but there’s an ulterior motive: Johnson plans to frame him for the attempt. Needless to say everything gets botched including the capture of Swagger who is now on the lam. And then--bam! The 15 minutes of interesting somewhat inventive story bits are gone as Swagger tries to merely stay alive with the help of his late Marine partner’s girlfriend (Kate Mara) and one of the few remaining uncorrupt FBI agents (Michael Pena). It was not long ago that Wahlberg was the butt of many a Hollywood joke and late-night TV monologue for trying erase his Marky Mark days by taking the “serious actor” plunge. In the last few years and culminating with his Oscar-nominated turn in The Departed he has built perhaps the widest fan base of any actor. In Shooter said fans will be rooting for Wahlberg aloud even though this is more of antihero role. He’s gruff rough and ultra-virile and it actually works without a hint of unintentional humor on his part. If he’s willing to stay the action-hero course Wahlberg might just be this generation’s Arnold  Bruce or Sly. Keeping Wahlberg on top of his game is Glover. Long the go-to good guy in movies Glover was certainly an illogical choice for the villain but the transition goes smoothly for him thanks to his always-composed delivery and demeanor. Rising stars Pena (World Trade Center) and Mara (Zoom) play for sidekick laughs and looks respectively. Pena whose role is rightfully meatier is an actor to keep an eye on. With the exception of Little Miss Sunshine’s husband-and-wife duo “former music video director” is starting to carry with it the same negative connotation as “former child actor.” Shooter’s director Antoine Fuqua is a former music video director. Fuqua like most of his aforementioned kind can create a gorgeously stylized action sequence but seemingly  little else and if it weren’t for his overrated Denzel-carried Training Day he’d likely be back to full-time music video duty given his many past bombs. His work on Shooter offers some nifty tactical/survival scenes and again cool action sequences but the lack of depth and any semblance of realism is a bit overwhelming. Speaking of which the writing of such a non-story in this case by Jonathan Lemkin (The Devil's Advocate) is just as guilty. The interesting backstory is that the script is adapted from a novel by a movie critic (The Washington Post’s Stephen Hunter) and man he must be feeling violated right about now! As a non-reader of the book I can only hope the original Swagger was not written as a sniper-turned-Rambo/Terminator hybrid and that the story is not equal parts human implausibilities and government diatribes--as is written by the screenwriter.

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