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Mark Wahlberg doing his Matt Damon impression
Mark Wahlberg Stars in "Shooter".
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $30,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

January 4th, 2007: Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) is one of the finest snipers that has ever held a rifle for the United States Army. After a disastrous mission, he retreats into a self-imposed exile somewhere in the wilderness of Arkansas. When a former superior, Colonel Isaac Fitzsimmons Johnson (Danny Glover), attempts to lure him back to help out with an important mission, Swagger reluctantly accepts. His task is to utilize his knowledge to scope out potential spots where an attempt to assassinate the U.S. President could take place and to help the military stop any such efforts. Eventually, an anonymous assassin’s failed attempt leaves Swagger with a couple of bullets in his body and with the authorities convinced that Swagger is the culprit responsible. Now he must go on the run to avoid capture, to try and clear his name, and to find those guilty of framing him. His one aid at the FBI will be agent Nick Memphis (Michael Pena), a former sniper himself, who has stumbled onto facts that force him to question the suspicious conduct of his peers during the investigation and pursuit of Swagger.

What to Expect: The most troubling thing about Shooter is how many films it bears a striking resemblance to, not the least of which is a film titled The Shooter starring Wesley Snipes, which is scheduled to go straight to DVD sometime in 2007. The plot of the latter film also revolves around a recluse, who is coaxed back into action from his ranch in Montana to finish a mission he previously failed at, only to be framed for killing an official. If Shooter ever gets mixed up with the Snipes version, The Shooter, that could result in some tragic box-office receipts. Unfortunately, that’s not the only movie that Shooter resembles. The recent Michael Douglas thriller, The Sentinel, and Most Wanted, with Keenen Ivory Wayans playing the part of the framed fugitive, are both highly reminiscent of the plot in Shooter. Additionally, early promotional material appears to draw parallels with the Jason Bourne series, while only lacking the amnesia angle. Come to think of it, there are probably many more movies that have a very similar structure, since Shooter does not actually have the most original of storylines. As unimpressive as the movie may seem as a result of these similarities, it actually has a fighting chance given some of the other aspects of the production.

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Star Mark Wahlberg claims that the movie’s budget is in the vicinity of $60-$70 million, which is quite impressive if you consider the relatively generic-sounding storyline. However, Wahlberg has added that the film is a smart action picture, very much grounded in dialogue and not in mindless explosions or fight sequences. In fact, the actor, who is coming off the finest performance of his career in Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, is approaching the movie very much like a play. Reportedly, he has several four or five-page monologues to deliver throughout the film. While Wahlberg has admitted that the film has been more draining mentally, the physical demands of the shoot have been quite tolling as well, especially when the actor has been called on to perform his own stunts. In one scene, he is hanging on a rope that is attached to a barge that is dragging him through some highly polluted water.

The movie is based on Stephen Hunter’s popular novel Point of Impact, which is actually part of a trilogy of books very similar to the Jason Bourne series. Together with Black Light and Time to Hunt, Point of Impact follows the story of Vietnam veteran and sniper, Bob “the Nailer” Swagger. The character is actually based on a real Marine Corps prodigy named Carlos Hathcock, who was recognized as the Marines most proficient sniper during the Vietnam War and was awarded the Silver Star, the military’s third highest honor. The North Vietnamese actually had a $50,000 bounty on his head, which seems astronomical when compared to the $50 to $100 rewards that they typically put out. Although it is not set in the same time period, the book actually contains some noticeable parallels with the “patsy” theory in the JFK assassination.

Hunter, meanwhile, is a Pulitzer Prize winning author, who was given the notable award in 2003 for his contribution to film criticism. Currently, he writes for the Washington Post, which means that he may have to eventually review the film that’s based on his own book. Even more interestingly, he may have to critique his own performance in the picture. Director Antoine Fuqua reportedly pulled Hunter in to do a speaking part after an actor failed to show up on set. Supposedly, the author plays some sort of a shadowy government power figure and was given several pages of bizarre dialogue about an archbishop’s murder and international exploits of African oil reserves. The role sounds substantial enough to warrant my interest in a possible future review of the movie done by him.

The book itself is a taut and suspenseful thriller, full of those little details that make books so engaging and that good authors are so adept with. Additionally, Hunter actually knows his guns enough to be well versed in the necessary language. It’s a worthy read that has garnered its share of fans and is certainly not a ‘Bourne’ rip-off, especially since Hunter’s trilogy actually came first. The story presents some exciting possibilities for the adaptation, above all with the book’s sniper angle. I’ve always been fascinated by the physically and mentally exhausting aspects of being a sniper. During the Vietnam War, Carlos Hathcock once took 3 days to crawl for about a mile, an inch at a time, in order to get the perfect shot at a high ranking North Vietnamese officer. The snowy, mountainous Pennsylvania and Canada locations where the film was filmed should provide a perfect backdrop to convey the thrill of the hunt.

In Conclusion: The book appears to be a solid source for the flick, but the producers seem to be way too worried about drawing parallels with the ‘Jason Bourne’ series. The trailer, the tagline, the logo, the poster, and Wahlberg himself, all evoke familiar characteristic of that franchise. Still, that’s only advertising, and the film itself may turn out to be very interesting. Make sure to keep your fingers crossed that Fuqua returns to the thrilling type of filmmaking that made his Training Day so spectacular. After a promising start, his King Arthur and Tears of the Sun have been respectable, but relatively dismissible, so it remains to be seen whether he is actually a gifted filmmaker worthy of serious consideration. Still, King Arthur and Tears of the Sun were both boggled in their mundane, war-themed storylines and Shooter presents Fuqua with an opportunity to return to the type of character-driven grittiness he was able to achieve in Training Day. I think this flick may turn out to be a pleasant surprise, but I don’t like the way the advertising is shaping up. Shooter will probably be unfairly dismissed by audiences. Anyway, I cannot imagine a sequel with the title Shooter 2, so maybe that would be for the best.

Similar Titles: The Bourne Identity, The Negotiator, Marathon Man
March 23rd, 2007 (wide)
June 26th, 2007 (DVD)

Paramount Pictures

Antoine Fuqua

Mark Wahlberg, Michael Pena, Danny Glover, Kate Mara, Elias Koteas, Rhona Mitra, Ned Beatty, Levon Helm, Justin Louis

Total: 91 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Drama, Suspense

Click here to view site

Rated R for strong graphic violence and language.

124 min





Shooter at RottenTomatoes.com

Shooter at AskMen.com

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