As the hero of Shooter, Mark Wahlberg
narrows his eyes into a piercing stare, delivers his bite-sized chunks of dialogue under his breath, and maintains a constant state of muscle flex so that each vein in his ropy arms sticks up like a speed bump on an elementary school driveway.
Wahlberg even boasts the ideal name: Bob Lee Swagger. The surname ensures he's all attitude. The fact that he goes by three monikers means he's a bona fide presidential assassin, situated in a class above Lee Harvey Oswald. Article continues below
This comes in handy when Swagger, a trained sniper hiding out after a botched military assignment, is coaxed back into action by Col. Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover
, still getting too old for this stuff). An internal document leaked to Johnson suggests that our nation's leader will be shot while speaking in Baltimore, Philadelphia, or Washington, D.C. Swagger is recruited to scope out the cities and search for flawless sight lines. Everyone can see a major setup coming... except Swagger.
On the day of the assassination attempt, shots are fired. The president survives but another crucial target is hit. Johnson and crew frame Swagger, and Shooter shifts from firing-range specifics to the broad pursuits of an angry, betrayed fugitive.
The material was previously imagined in hardcover form (as Point of Impact) by Stephen Hunter, an author and full-time film critic for the Washington Post. Sadly, screenwriter Jonathan Lemkin (Lethal Weapon 4) runs Hunter's complicated novel through a grinder, then mashes the meaty droppings into a convoluted cover-up involving federal witnesses and identifiable corpses.
Swagger finds unlikely allies in rookie FBI agent Nick Memphis (Michael Pena
) and gorgeous Sarah Fenn (Kate Mara
), fiancÚ to Swagger's deceased war buddy. As he tracks down the men responsible for his supposed crimes, Swagger traces blame through Johnson up the ladder to Sen. Charles F. Meachum (Ned Beatty
Shooter can't explain a thing about its action, but the picture moves quickly enough that you don't ask a lot of questions until the sprint is finished. For instance, why would Sarah, a third-grade teacher living in a Tennessee suburb, keep a sawed-off shotgun by her front door? And would Memphis really try an Internet chat room when researching information about specific military machine guns? And while we're talking about Memphis, how could he and Swagger drive a beat-up truck from Virginia to Montana overnight?
Stop with the questions, already. We don't go to the movies to think. Can Shooter blow stuff up real good?
Well, sure. The thinly veiled political rant hits all cylinders whenever its crosshairs land in action mode. Director Antoine Fuqua
(Training Day) patterns his macho picture after the one-man vengeance missions that littered cinemas in the 1980s. Swagger is a modern-day John Rambo, an invincible hero facing a steady (and sturdy) string of improbable obstacles. And Fuqua is a big-canvas director who opts for sweeping helicopter shots over subdued, two-camera conversation clips.
Patriotic posturing holds up one end of Shooter, as crisp American flags flap in most backgrounds, letting freedom and the sound of gunfire ring. Too bad the other side is propped up on cardboard cutouts for the film's villains, from Glover and Beatty to the always sleazy Elias Koteas
-- has he ever played a decent gentleman on screen?