Movie Review – Shooter (2007)
by HELEN GEIB
Shooter is three parts straightforward action thriller to two parts left-wing paranoid conspiracy harangue. The pieces are largely distinct and sequential, with the unfortunate consequence that by the end of the film the harangue overshadows the action.
Shooter has a very good premise for an action thriller. Disillusioned sniper Swagger (played by Mark Wahlberg, and yes, that is the character’s real name) has retired from the military and is living as a modern mountain man. Mysterious government operative Johnson (Danny Glover) recruits Swagger to plan an assassination of the president as an intel exercise to thwart a terrorist plot. In actuality, Johnson is part of a shadowy group within the government that poses the real threat to national security and has set up Swagger to be its (dead) fall guy. Swagger escapes and the hunter becomes the hunted. Along the way he picks up allies in the form of a rookie FBI agent (Michael Pena) and a fallen comrade’s widow (Kate Mara).
The action thriller segment of Shooter is quite entertaining. The direction by Antoine Fuqua and staging of the action sequences is good and the film builds tension and excitement. Fun character bits and the occasional clever line are interspersed among the action scenes at appropriate intervals.
Wahlberg is really very good here. His character carries the film and the script gives him some strong dramatic material and some welcome moments of acerbic humor. Pena is very likable and brings a lot to an underwritten role. Mara invests life in a stock character. Glover and Ned Beatty, who plays the other principal villain, can’t redeem their parts – no actor could overcome that dialogue – but they make the characters work for longer than I would have thought possible.
The seams of the conspiracy plot begin to show early on, but it didn’t interfere with my enjoyment as long as the movie kept moving briskly from one set piece to the next. The story faltered as soon as it turned its attention to revealing the conspiracy, and by the time the movie ground to a halt for the third time for the villains’ to chortle over the success of their evil plans and the inevitable triumph of the self-interested over the principled, I was more than ready for it to just be done already.
The people most likely to enjoy the conspiracy plot are conservative talk radio show hosts, as it is excellent fodder for those who view Hollywood as a bastion of America-hating, flag-burning, condescending left-wingnuts. The more charitably inclined may see the plot of Shooter as merely pandering to the taste of audiences perceived to rate conspiracy theories and explosions according to the same standard: the bigger the better. Whatever the source, the plot betrays a lack of imagination and a disregard for logic and good sense.
If you decide to see this movie for the action, I strongly recommend leaving at the point Swagger starts for Montana. You won’t miss anything good, and your imagination will supply a much more entertaining conclusion than the filmmakers did.