Shooter (2007)

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Published on: 2007.03.25

From a distance, or from the trailers, Shooter looks like the average military-political conspiracy thriller that will have the same plot as all the others. And it does.

But this movie delivers things that most of the others haven’t (at least for me). It brings the viewer into the mind and world of an ex-military sniper (Mark Wahlberg) who loves his country but yet gets screwed by the system.

It also elevates Wahlberg to the level of bona fide action hero, filling the shoes now vacated by the likes of Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, or (to a lesser degree) Tom Cruise. All of these men are now either too old or too strange (Cruise) to do for movie audiences what they used to do in films like Die Hard, Rambo, or Mission Impossible.

Wahlberg steps into the role with decidedly impressive acting chops, having broken his teeth already in previous works, including The Italian Job, Planet of the Apes, and The Big Hit. Now 35 years old, Wahlberg is finally believable in a role like this, and pulls it off beautifully.

Shooter is sexy without sex, grand in scope while mainly following one character, and politically charged without getting into too much political detail.

With locations in Canada and the eastern U.S., the movie makes us feel like we’re in Montana, Colorado, Tennessee, Kentucky, and even Ethiopia (for the opening scenes). From mountain cabins to snowy peaks, and humid rivers to city streets, all the locations were deftly chosen and expertly filmed to bring the viewer into the experience like it’s real life. (This is one of my main criteria for a “good” movie — How well does it convince me that I’m really there?)

Brutally violent, Shooter doesn’t pull any punches when showing us military action or even close-up man-to-man struggles. “This is what really happens — close your eyes if you have to,” the movie seems to say. If the sight of a combatant’s head exploding sickens you, then you’ll want to avoid parts of this movie. These scenes (and a little rough language) are what earned the film its “R” rating; there isn’t a single nude scene.

Shooter is directed by Antoine Fuqua, who already proved what he can do in 2004’s King Arthur, 2003’s Tears of the Sun, and 1998’s The Replacement Killers. Of these three, though, only King Arthur had the kind of photographic quality and mind-blowing action scenes that I saw in Shooter.

Wahlberg’s character is a patriotic former soldier who’s done his duty, and will do it again, once he’s convinced that it will save his nation. Once a shadowy organization tricks him into being the fall guy, he ruthlessly tracks them down at the risk of his own life, freedom and reputation, helping out the good guys and blowing the bad guys to a flaming smithereens.

Wahlberg “makes it look easy,” according to the LA Times. He doesn’t quite seem like he’s playing a role here, making it look like this is his real life captured by cameras.

Looking back, I can’t think of a single scene that should have been cut, or parts that were weaker than others. It’s a strong movie, with brilliant acting and filmography, coming at just the right time in the development of the American psyche.

Things I didn’t like:
* As mentioned above, the plot has been done almost to death. This “genre” isn’t really a genre; more like a series of re-makes of the same darn film. There wasn’t a single new story element introduced here.
* There were quite a few unbelievable or contrived conveniences to the plot, like there will be in every movie of this category. However, most of them aren’t evident until one thinks back with a critical eye.
* By its very existence, the movie disproves some of its “political statement.” If the government is truly that big, sinister and covert, then why would a movie like this be allowed to exist.

I’d recommend Shooter to just about anyone.

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