Shooter is a 2007 action/thriller film. Brought to us by director Antoine Fuqua, Shooter tells the story of an American sniper Bob Lee Swagger, who is framed for the murder of the archbishop of Ethiopia. Mark Wahlberg plays Swagger, a retired United States Gunnery Sniper, who ends up getting betrayed by the government for a crime he didn’t commit. Along the way of his quest to clear his name, he meets up with rookie FBI agent Nick Memphis (Michael Peña), and his late partner’s widow Sarah Fenn (Kate Mara).
The film actually opens up with Swagger and his sniping spotter covering the retreat of United States soldiers. After some impressive shots taken by Swagger, the two quickly realize that they are in trouble if they stay where they are, and promptly find out that the government doesn’t care about them. Swagger ends up making it out, while his partner doesn’t end up as lucky. Fast forward three years, as Swagger has become a shut-in living in the woods. He gets a visit from a man working for the government. He has a job proposal for Swagger: plan a presidential assassination. He doesn’t want execution, but apparently Swagger is the only one still alive who can plan a successful assassination. They want it planned so that they can stop a potential murderer. Quite quickly, Swagger is shot and goes on the run, as someone else shoots the archbishop of Ethiopia, who was standing right beside the President of the United States.
The plot is fairly basic and cliched, while any plot twists that occur are not going to really surprise you. The main character is betrayed by the government, and therefore must go on an insane quest to prove his innocence, as well as attempt to incriminate the real bad guy. Shooter isn’t really a film that really dwells on the plot. That is a bit of a problem, as it tries to force you to think about who really is the bad guy, despite it never really mattering. The villains of the film end up kind of blending together into one role, and the film might have actually worked better if they were all one character. They are basically one-note characters who have the sole purpose of giving Mark Wahlberg a reason to kill people.
Speaking of killing people, Shooter does its action scenes just fine. They are all fairly fun, with a lot of dead bodies being thrown in all different directions. The only problem with them is the fact that most of the deaths in the film actually come from innocent people just doing their job. In reality, only about three or four deaths are actually from the “bad guys.” This fact, combined with a “feel-happy” ending that has some very serious implications definitely does detract from a film already hampered by its plot. With that said, if you don’t think too hard about the people Swagger is killing, the action scenes are well done and enjoyable to watch.
The predictability of Shooter ends up being the film’s biggest problem.
Despite killing a lot of innocent people, Wahlberg actually does equate himself well as an action hero. He’s certainly got the body for it, and even his demeanor in the film works well. In a way, he almost plays a superhero, as opposed to an action hero. The amount of improbable things that Swagger gets put through within the film makes you feel like he actually cannot be killed. This realization takes away from the pretense of tension that the film goes for. The acting overall is pretty good, with Wahlberg playing the action hero, Kate Mara playing the damsel in distress, and Michael Pena playing the unaware partner are all done fairly well. They aren’t inspired performances by any stretch, but they are believable characters and act pretty much exactly how you’d expect them to.
The predictability of Shooter ends up being the film’s biggest problem. The plot plays off many other different conspiracy films, while the characters have one note that they sing until either the film, or their lives come to an end. The characters are acted out well, but since they don’t really have much depth or development, that doesn’t really save the film. What does save Shooter is the action scenes. If you can look over the fact that the majority of the deaths are hard-working, innocent people, the action scenes are really fun to watch. They don’t really feature any tension, as Bob Lee Swagger is almost as impervious to damage as Superman is, but they are enjoyable to look at. The film’s pacing is fine, with everything moving at a quick pace, and the action rarely lets up. It just doesn’t really have the makeup of an incredible film. The plot is basic, and the characters aren’t interesting. It is basically only saved by the action scenes and political intrigue, and that does not equal a great film.
Conclusion: Shooter is a fun movie with a decent amount of action and political intrigue.
Recommendation: I like Shooter enough to recommend you give it a watch.