Shooter opens with Swagger (Wahlberg) in the middle of a failing black-op in Ethiopia. His spotter is killed, and he's left for dead by the agency that sent him in, leaving him to somehow escape the situation on his own. Cut to 3 years later, and Marky Mark is set up in a ranch in the snowy mountains in a remote location, sporting an awful haircut, and owning perhaps the best dog in the world. His reclusive existence is interrupted by Colonel Johnson (Glover), who arrives with a mysterious offer that he just can't refuse...
It sounds a bit...obvious, doesn't it? For a man who's been betrayed by his government once before, Wahlberg falls for Glover's dubious plan a little too easily. And it doesn't even seem like he's trying to conceal the duplicitous nature of the operation. Glover plays his role like Nosferatu in a suit; I half expected him to bite into Wahlberg's neck, although he obviously couldn't find the time in between his evil-caricature gestures and husky whispering. Taking the bait, Swagger sets himself up for quite a fall, and, luckily for us, quite an enjoyable film. Cue the government conspiracy and the one-man-killing-machine's mission to reveal the truth...
During his quest to clear his name, Wahlberg finds allies in the form of rookie FBI Agent Nick Memphis (well played by Michael Pena) and his former spotters' girlfriend Sarah, played by Kate Mara, and these two partnerships affect the film in quite different ways. When Swagger is teamed up with Memphis, Shooter plays out like an action-heavy buddy movie, but when Swagger's placed in the care of Sarah and the movie's romantic dramatic sub-plot is gestured at, it slows down awkwardly. We know Marky Mark has to recover from his bullet-wounds somewhere, but perhaps it could have been the recovery that was suggested instead of the awkward forbidden romance scenes that this pairing generates. The rest of the supporting cast are generally good, although a special mention should go to Elias Koteas for his role as Glover's oversexed supervillain henchman, who provides a great deal of sex-fiend-caricature entertainment. That being said, Wahlberg's presence is missed and the film appears to jar awkwardly and slow down without him. Without his moral outrage and willingness to shoot his way through his problems, the movie loses its momentum. While it handles similar issues to the Bourne franchise (government hunter becomes hunted) and attempts to make the same sort of contemporary political statements, Shooter doesn't quite have the same sort of grittiness. Instead, its polished look, complete with lush landscapes and Fuqua's sun-soaked direction, seems to nod continuously in the direction of Michael Bay. However, that's not a bad thing. The movie is very set-piece oriented, and Swagger's gung-ho approach keeps things moving forward at a relatively exciting pace.
The only problem is that it never really seems like Swagger's in any real danger, despite the fact that he's being chased by pretty much every law enforcement agency in America (social comment, perhaps?). This makes the film quite predictable, its sequences and dialogue clichéd, and its conclusion pretty much an obvious inevitability, but if you just sit back and accept it for what it is, you'll find Shooter an enjoyable, action-packed movie that's worth a look.
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