Possibly a bit dum-dum, makes a fairly hollow point, but still on target for thrills. A-haw-hee haaaw...
Antoine Fuqua is one of those Hollywood curiosities. Having had no small amount of praise heaped upon him for his sophomore feature Training Day (a movie I very much enjoyed but still consider a little over-hyped), he has since failed, by popular opinion, to live up to that initial promise. Tears Of The Sun proved little more than a mild diversion, and King Arthur was... well, it was King Arthur. Having shown some tendency toward all things gun-toting in the past, we now find ourselves in front of Shooter; an assassination-slash-revenge thriller starring the recently Oscar nominated Mark Wahlberg that proves, if not Oscar worthy in itself, a pretty entertaining slice of action nonetheless.
Wahlberg here plays the fabulously named Bob Lee Swagger, a former elite Marine Scout Sniper and veteran of many a hazardous mission who now spends his time in the wilds of Tennessee taking ranged pops at tin cans and being brought beer from the fridge by his trusty mutt. Enter stage left shadowy G-man Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover) who has a small favour to ask of the exiled sharp shooter; help the CIA prevent an attempt on the life of the President by a sniper who will take his shot from beyond a mile. It's a trick that requires no small amount of skill, and Swagger is one of the few men with the expertise to best assess from where and when the assassin will take his shot. Of course that would be far too boring a movie in this day and age, so Swagger duly finds himself double-crossed and framed for the attempt. D'oh!
This being marketed as popcorn fodder for the masses, one approaches Shooter with more than a little apprehension. With Wahlberg now a nominated man there is doubtless some air of expectancy and anticipation, but when one considers his work here was probably in the bag long before the nominations were called it's possibly best not to get too over-excited. A pleasant surprise then that Shooter proves to be quite so entertaining, and even more so that it delivers just a little more than a cursory swipe at the politicians and their agency cohorts who move so silently among the shadows of military protocol.
While not quite a revelation, Wahlberg still manages a performance which threatens to transcend the source material, making up for what he lacks in raw thespian power with his now entrenched "good bloke" demeanour and a violent-yet-justifiable moral compass that sees absolutely everyone who deserves it take a jacketed round to the head. Swagger's tendency to sort people out by removing half their brain matter is counter pointed nicely by Michael Pe?a as rookie FBI man Nick Memphis, whose vulnerability three weeks out of the academy serves to address the emotional balance a little. Despite feeling like a small step back from his role in World Trade Center one doubts such a solid performance in so slick a production will set his career back at all.
Directorially, Shooter delivers pretty much that which is required and little more. It?s certainly rather slickly paced, but there are precious few flourishes that make it stand out from the crowd and the inclusion of a completely unnecessary ?babe in a bikini with shotgun? moment threatens to drag the whole thing down into lad-mag territory. Still, with so much going on so swiftly Fuqua does manage to keep a reasonable grip on the reigns, and it?s never too long before the next skull pops like a watermelon which is, after all, exactly what we wanted. It?s just a shame that Antoine?s apparent regression back into pop promo simplicity leaves so little room for individuality, as with a little more spit and polish this could have risen somewhat above it?s pulp roots.
At the end of the day, Shooter is another injection of slick, disposable trash into the arm of modern cinema culture, but I can?t help feeling a little fondness for it. I suspect there?s a much better movie underneath, but for now it quite happily placates a desire for M.O.R. violence and thrills. It?s just a shame that with such skills in sharp shooting all those involved didn?t aim just a little bit higher to begin with.
I award this movie 3 out of 5 Disko Units.
Danny Glover (Colonel Isaac Johnson)
Michael Pe?a (Nick Memphis)