short film reviews, criticism, and occasional musing.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Shooter (2007, USA)

Brainless action is one thing, but Shooter is just plain dumb. A conspiracy thriller that bores more than it thrills, Mark Wahlberg stars as an ex-Marine sniper recruited to do a shady bit of patriotic service. Obviously, everything goes pear-shaped in the first half hour, and Wahlberg's character (the awesomely named Bob Lee Swagger) is then chased across the country, forced to prove that he didn't try to kill the President of the United States.

The movie is so badly structured that the first half doesn't pay a bit of attention to the conspiracy at the center of the plot, choosing instead to front-load with chase scenes and over-the-top action sequences. The second half is then weighed down by a poorly-conceived screed on corruption in U.S. international policy. This turns out to be the most annoying aspect of Shooter - the lip service it pays to current political issues. While the president seemingly at the center of the assassination plot is an entirely anonymous figure, Swagger reads the 9/11 report, and continual mentions are made of the Iraq War and various U.S. atrocities committed in the name of freedom, some real, some not. What's the film's alternative to a self-perpetuating system of governmental corruption? Libertarian individualism, of course - that old American can-do spirit, represented here by living in a cabin in the woods with your guns and your dog. Yee haw.

While Wahlberg has the intensity to pull of the bulk of his role, he doesn't have the spark of humor of say, Bruce Willis or Nicholas Cage, actors who would have been able to insert a bit more humanity into Swagger. Michael Pena and Kate Mara work overtime to compensate, but it's beyond them to correct Wahlberg's inertness. Working with stronger directors, such as David O. Russell, P.T. Anderson, or even F. Gary Gray, Wahlberg can turn in a decent performance, but Antoine Fuqua didn't know how to make his lead's flatness work in the film's favor. However, there's certainly too much wrong with Shooter to lay all the blame at Wahlberg's door - Fuqua hasn't been able to follow up on the promise of Training Day, and at this point, it seems doubtful that he will.


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