Mark Wahlberg, Michael Peña, Danny Glover, Kate Mara, Elias Koteas,
Rhona Mitra, Rade Sherbedgia, Ned Beatty
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Every movie that Antoine Fuqua makes from now until the end of his days will say “From the director of ‘Training Day’” somewhere in the poster or trailer, but make no mistake: Antoine Fuqua lives to blow, shit, up. He’s a poor man’s Michael Bay, though there is nothing poor (budget-wise, anyway) about his movies. His latest, “Shooter,” is an unabashed throwback to ‘80s action flicks like “Commando,” and believe it or not, that’s actually a good thing. The movie lives in a world where people who deserve to be dead get dead, and little else matters. You have to admire its simplicity of purpose.
Mark Wahlberg is Bob Lee Swagger (again, is that an ‘80s name or what?), a former sniper for the Marines who receives a visit from Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover). Johnson has learned that there will be an attempt on the President’s life, and asks Swagger to scout out the three potential target sites. Swagger is reluctant at first, but relents once Johnson plays the patriot card. Swagger gives them pitch-perfect intel, and Johnson uses it to take out a different target altogether, setting Swagger up for the fall. Swagger survives the attempt on his life, and a chance encounter with a rookie FBI agent on remote detail (Michael Peña) gives Swagger an unlikely ally while he regroups and plans his counterattack.
The script is based on upon Stephen Hunter’s 1993 novel “Point of Impact,” which goes a great ways to explain the dated nature of the story structure. Those were the days of Grisham and Clancy, and both of their trademarks are present here. Swagger waxes technical about the effects humidity, wind speed and temperature have on sniping, and before he knows it he’s in a Run, Shooter, Run! race for his life. The only difference, of course, is that in the movies that were made out of Grisham and Clancy’s books, very little shit was blow’d up. Fuqua amends that “shortcoming” by exploring the wonders of napalm and how to properly walk, not run, away from an exploding building.
In other words, this is the perfect movie for Mark Wahlberg. I tend to think he’s better than he’s given credit for, but let’s face it: the man was born to play a stoical redneck sharpshooter (love his ponytail in the beginning). Glover sounds like he’s wearing a mouthpiece (plus his voice is completely shot), and resident heavy Rade Serbedzija has to say things like “Hees not deaaaaaad” with utter sincerity. And then there’s Ned Beatty, who waltzes in during the third act playing Montana Senator Charles Meachum like he just spent a week in Tijuana with Joe Don Baker. You want to talk swagger? Wahlberg’s character has nothing on Beatty.It is probably not the best thing for the future of moviemaking if “Shooter” proves to be a big hit, but in this tiresome age of irony, there is something refreshing about a movie that would rather be explosive than plausible. This is not to say that “Shooter” is dumb: it’s just…singularly driven. Beats the hell out of cynical, if you ask me.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Antoine Fuqua is a man of few words, so it was bit surprising to discover a director audio commentary on the single-disc release of “Shooter.” The track is spotty at best, but when the mood does strike Fuqua to talk, his comments are invaluable. The rest of the extras feel just as inadequate. “Survival of the Fittest” is an entertaining making-of featurette that covers weapons training and action choreography, but absolutely nothing on the rest of the production, while “Independence Hall” is a boring history lesson on the Philadelphia tourist trap. Also included is the usual array of deleted scenes, none of which really are especially noteworthy.