The Film: Shooter (2007)
The Principles: Antoine Fuqua (Director). Jonathan Lemkin (Screenwriter). Mark Wahlberg, Michael Pena, Danny Glover, Kate Mara, Elias Koteas, Ned Beatty, Rade Serbedzija, Rhona Mitra, Tate Donavon, Jonathan Walker, Justin Louis, Alan C. Peterson, Brian Markinson, Levon Helm, Mike Dopud, Dean McKenzie, etc.
The Premise: A retired Marine sniper is coaxed out of his mountain hideaway to help the government prevent an assassination on the President of the United States. Unbeknownst to him, however, he is being set up as a patsy for the killing of a foreign head of state. On the run from every law enforcement agency imaginable, he must evade capture and clear his name.
Is It Good?: Yes, it is. In many ways, Shooter is a precursor to Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen. It’s all there. A disgraced hero who is underestimated by his foes. A conspiracy within our own government. Rampant patriotic (though not uncritical) imagery. The works. While it doesn’t reach the glorious heights of Fuqua’s latest, Shooter is certain an above average actioner and leagues ahead of Wahlberg’s more recent genre efforts in terms of quality.
We open on a covert mission where sniper Bob Lee Swagger (Wahlberg) and his spotter/best friend are tasked with giving cover fire to a convoy. Naturally, shit hits the inevitable fan and only Swagger walks away alive. Pissed off about being abandoned by his superiors, he walks away from the military to lead a life of solitude in the mountains. A few years later, the government comes calling again. It seems that a tip has come through that the President will be assassinated sometime in the coming weeks by a sniper from a great distance. Colonel Johnson (Glover) wants Swagger to scope out the POTUS’s next three public appearances and try to figure out where and how said would-be assassin might try to pull off his task. After settling on Philadelphia as the obvious best setting for a kill, Swagger goes to work on cover all of their bases.
The day comes and does not go off without a hitch. You see, Swagger has been swindled. The assassin’s bullet fires and hits its true intended target: a foreign dignitary. Swagger has been duped into making himself the perfect scapegoat and barely escapes with his life. Injured and on the run, he turns to the only two people who believe him to be innocent: His dead pal’s fiancee Sarah (Mara) and an undervalued FBI agent (Pena) who isn’t buying the neatly wrapped up investigation sitting before him. As the film progresses, we come to realize that the conspiracy leads back to a corrupt Dick Cheney-esque senator brought to life by the wonderful Ned Beatty. Throw in a bunch of well-executed action sequences and you have yourself a nice popcorn-ready action flick.
While it doesn’t cover any new territory, Shooter manages to play out its cliches in a confident and confident fashion, which is more than can be said for the majority of the films we receive in the genre these days. In the capable hands of director Antoine Fuqua and played out by a great cast (including a sleazy turn by Koteas), it is an unfortunately overlooked film that was unlucky enough to hit the big screen a few years too early. While the Commander-In-Chief of the Funky Bunch has never had too much trouble snagging leading roles, his current fame really didn’t hit its stride until the 2010 triple threat of Date Night, The Other Guys, and The Fighter. Had Shooter been made four years later, it easily would have been more than a minor success and could very well have lead to a series of Wahlbergian Swagger antics. It is monumentally more deserving of such success than some of the dreck that Marky Mark has churned out since (Max Payne, Contraband, Broken City, etc.). One can only hope that his upcoming entries (2 Guns, Lone Survivor, etc.) fare better in the quality department. Regardless, this one is a keeper.
Is It Worth A Look?: Certainly. Mark Wahlberg has a spotty track record in this genre, but Shooter is one of the good ones. Give it a whirl some evening if the mood strikes (especially if you subscribe to Netflix Instant) and you might be surprised by how much you enjoy it.
Random Anecdotes: The film is an adaptation of the Stephen Hunter’s Point of Impact. It was the first in an still-going series of novels about lead character Bob Lee Swagger. There are currently eight books in the series.
Robert Rodriguez crafted his fake Machete trailer to play out like a cliche action flick, only with a Mexsploitation flavor and starring Danny Trejo. It worked out better than he intended, because the basic concept (before its expansion) was fairly close to Shooter‘s plot. Grindhouse hit theaters a mere 9 days after Shooter‘s silver screen debut, making the faux trailer seem even more like a low budget Cannon-esque riff on Fuqua’s film. Nice timing, RR! I don’t know if audiences noticed the correlation at the time, but I sure did.
Clint Eastwood, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, and Keanu Reeves all turned down the chance to play Swagger. Why the age gap? The character was written as a Vietnam veteran and the first three choices were more age appropriate. When the producers couldn’t land someone they wanted in that age bracket, the character’s history was changed and they went for a younger actor.
Eminem passed on the part that eventually went to Elias Koteas.
Melissa McCarthy has an uncredited cameo as a store clerk.
Cinematic Soulmates: The Big Hit, The Corruptor, Olympus Has Fallen, The Replacement Killers, Sniper, Tears of the Sun, etc.