Antoine Fuqua and Mark Wahlberg deliver above expectations
What does a super-skilled Marine do when he gets betrayed twice by the same people? He gets some bloody revenge, of course. His best option would be to watch "Shooter" and pull a Bob Lee Swagger. Star actor Mark Wahlberg and director Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day") turn a vengeful soldier into a warrior with purpose and a typical action movie into an unexpectedly brilliant bang-them-all-up thriller.
Based on the novel Point of Impact by Stephen Hunter, "Shooter" follows the life of Bob Lee Swagger (Wahlberg), an ex-Marine marksman who witnessed the death of his best friend and scouter after their superiors left them stranded in war-torn Ethiopia.
The movie begins with the death of Swagger's friend, Donnie Fenn (Lane Garrison), in Ethiopia three years before the main events of the story. Swagger gives up his duties in the armed forces and takes up a peaceful, isolated life with his dog in the seemingly unknown forests of America.
Soon after the flashback, a few government officials led by Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover) arrive and ask for Swagger's expertise in foiling a presidential assassination attempt. Swagger agrees to help, but is framed as the assassination takes place. He then flees and goes on a hunt to find the real shooter and why he was set up.Fuqua uses high-tech explosions and high-powered weaponry to allow Wahlberg's character to turn the tables on his opponents and begin hunting the hunters. He first showcases his top-notch marksmanship ability in the opening scene, as he quickly and precisely picks off ten or so approaching men with a rifle.
Although Swagger's abilities are clearly exaggerated, they help to establish him as a dominant, confident killer fighting for his life and justice. Along with these skills, Wahlberg portrays Swagger as an unbelievably quick thinker; in retrospect it's surprising he got himself into the situation in the first place. Wahlberg's witty humor and emotional distress throughout the film keeps his character as real as you and I.
The supporting cast combines a few underrated actors along with the true veterans. Michael Peña and Kate Mara play the roles of rookie FBI agent Nick Memphis and Fenn's widow, Sarah, aiding Swagger throughout the film. The two fit their roles almost perfectly; Peña acts amusingly clueless until he develops into Swagger's key ally in revenge, while Mara acts confused, yet determined to help Swagger. Colonel Johnson and Senator Meachum are portrayed by the experienced Glover and Ned Beatty as Swagger's mysterious enemies. Beatty's generous belly gives Senator Meachum a sinister, greedy demeanor that reflects Jack Nicholson's recent performance as mob leader Frank Costello in "The Departed."
From the breathtaking mountainous and forested scenes to the typical country background, "Shooter" has unexpectedly earned itself a high grade in cinematography. The movie was filmed in a variety of locations in America, including Washington, D.C., Tennessee and Montana. The constant scene shifts give the movie a refreshing sense of change as the story progresses.
The special effects of "Shooter" could not have been more realistic. The two helicopter scenes and the explosives used by Swagger and Memphis to thwart thirty-odd men speak volumes for the abilities of the visual effects crew. The very intensity of the movie rests on the key sequences with fire and guns.
The plot line itself may have been the only slightly disappointing aspect of the movie. The anti-government feelings emanating from Swagger's attitude continually throw the focus off of his real struggles. And the timid love relationship between Swagger and Sarah seems to steal too much attention from the real action, as Fenn falls into the typical "we have your girlfriend, do what we ask" hostage situation. Luckily, the twists, turns and revelations keep the viewer engaged.
But every other facet of "Shooter" outperforms expectations to make up for these weak points in the storyline. Action fans of all ages will certainly get a refreshing change from the high class acting and effects. And after the satisfying and flawless ending, have no doubt — Fuqua, Wahlberg and company will continue to "shoot" for the top of the game.
"Shooter" (127 minutes, area theaters) is rated R for strong graphic violence and some language.
Nitin Sukumar. Nitin's middle name is Antonio Gates. More »