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Hell Hath No Fury Like the Patriot Betrayed
by Matt Forsman on Mar 29, 2007
Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) is a sniper (aka shooter) whose skill is unequaled. Capable of hitting his prey from a staggering distance in the most difficult conditions, his unparalled ability is only matched by his patriotism and loyalty to the United States. However, a job gone awry results in the death of his partner and the US labels Swagger expendable leaving him to his own devices to survive certain death.
By hook or by crook, Swagger comes back alive, but he’s a disenchanted, disillusioned man who keeps to himself in a cabin in the backcountry. His remarkable abilities as a sniper serve to hunt dinner for himself and his dog. While Swagger is effectively off the radar, he’s still tuned into the "latest lies they are feeding us" via Internet.
Swagger’s hermit like existence changes in short order when he’s tracked down by Colonel Isaac Johnson (Danny Glover).Turns out Johnson is in desperate need of a man with Swagger’s abilities to prevent an assassination attempt on the president. Initially reticent, Swagger changes his tune in short order and signs up for the job, only to be set up, betrayed, and once again left for dead. Thus begins Antoine Fuqua’s (Training Day, King Arthur) Shooter.
Fuqua starts things off with a bang (forgive the pun) as we see in graphic detail the botched job that results in the death of his partner and Swagger’s near death. Shooter is a film that easily could be compared to a number of Tom Clancy inspired films (Sum of All Fears, Patriot Games, etc.). But, Fuqua takes a slightly different tact in structuring the movie as more of a straight up action film infused with elements of espionage. Think Clancy Light.
This approach works for the most part because Mark Wahlberg has the kind of physical presence that makes him more than believable as this kind of action hero. Swagger is tough, no doubt about it. But, the guy’s pretty sharp too. Above and beyond this, Swagger has morals and ethics that his own government seems hopelessly devoid of. In short, Swagger is the personification of the ideals that are often referred to as the "foundation" of this country.
No less compelling is the performance of Danny Glover as the immoral Colonel Isaac Johnson. He’s the antithesis of Swagger. The lives he claims are for questionable (at best) causes, what he’s defending is far less noble than his country, and his moral compass is just slightly askew. It’s an interesting role for Glover as it’s been awhile since we’ve seen him this nefarious and unpleasant (see The Color Purple), but he pulls it off well.
What we’re left with in Shooter is in some respects a 21st Century Rambo. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Director Fuqua manages to pull off some astonishing action set pieces, extracts some great performances from Wahlberg and Glover, and paces the story well from start to finish. There’s also a marked cynicism about the US government that pervades Shooter that surely will appeal to for many viewers.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
by Matt Forsman on Mar 29, 2007